Local schools see increase in threats

Police lights
Police lights

Three local schools had an increased police presence Monday morning after yet another social media threat was made, according to school officials.

“We were made aware of a social media post this morning regarding a matter at 9:15 a.m.,” said Greg Shull, spokesperson for Cleveland County Schools. “It has been thoroughly investigated by local law enforcement and in an abundance of caution, we have had additional law enforcement presence in and around campus throughout the morning.”

He said the extra law enforcement were at Crest Middle, Crest High and Shelby Middle schools.

Shull said he understands that such social media posts create apprehension for parents as such topics are extremely sensitive and concerning.

There have been several such threats made at multiple schools over the past week.

Shull said each of the social media posts has been deleted quickly and all were investigated by law enforcement.

Parents have received school safety messages notifying them of the threats.

“Throughout the school day today we received several additional rumors concerning a possible disruption at school on Friday,” said one such message sent to Kings Mountain High parents last week. “We will continue to investigate these rumors and out of an abundance of caution will have additional law enforcement on our campus again. Like the rumor that originated last night, we also have not been able to substantiate the rumor concerning tomorrow.  Please communicate with your student the importance of orderly conduct and the consequences that will result in negative behavior while at school. Our number one priority is to create a safe learning environment for our students and staff.”

Shelby Police Chief Jeff Ledford said law enforcement has had to deal with a lot of threats through social media lately, and they take each one seriously.

"When they come about, we're made aware by parents or the school system," he said. "Once we're notified of it, it starts a long process of investigating that. No threat toward a school could ever been seen as trivial, and they're all taken seriously."

Ledford said is imperative parents not only keep up with their children's social media, but have conversations about the proper use of the platforms and the consequences for misusing them.

To a young person who is 11 years old or 16 years old, they see I'm just going to make this post. They may think its funny, but they don't realize the implications because there is a criminal charge for that."

One teen was charged last week, and Ledford said they are still investigating threats which could lead to more.

"Young people don't think about what happens when they hit that send button and a lot of these can't be undone," Ledford said. "Once they send it, it's out there."

He said students also need to be aware that taking a screenshot and sharing a post that someone else made can also have consequences and is considered disseminating harmful information.

"When you see it, and screenshot it and send it to someone else you're just as guilty if you created it," Ledford said. "One simple post can cause chaos in a school."

Ledford said they have been working with social media platforms to find the owners of accounts and track who is making threats.

Shull also emphasized the importance of parents keeping up with their children’s social media during what is a pivotal time for students.

“They need ongoing guidance and supervision from parents on how to use social media wisely and appropriately. I want to encourage all parents to lean in, look in, monitor and guide your student’s social media interactions to ensure they are only posting and viewing appropriate content,” he said.

He said this will help ensure not only their child’s safety and well-being but that of the school community as well.

Shull advised parents to report any suspicious or concerning posts.

“And, if you come across something of a threat-like nature, please contact law enforcement first to give them the opportunity to investigate and work with social media providers to attempt to identify those involved,” he said. “Together we can maintain a safe and positive learning environment.”

Rebecca Sitzes can be reached at rsitzes@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on The Shelby Star: Local schools see increase in threats