school threats

Viral Warning of School Violence Puts Parents, Police, and Districts on High Alert

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From canceling class to early dismissal, a rash of threats on social media disrupted school for many in Connecticut Friday.

State and local police said those threats, which have been circulating across the country, were a hoax.

However, those behind them are in hot water, including several students in Connecticut.

The Wolcott police chief said he had every officer, detective, school resource officer, and security guard present when schools opened today.

“Today, was the safest school day the whole year,” said Chief Edward Stephens.

A day after fights broke out at the high school, the flurry of social media threats became too disruptive to the learning environment, according to Superintendent Dr. Anthony Gasper.  He notified parents Friday morning that all schools would dismiss early.

“There’s basically a scare or a threat crisis going on not just in the State of Connecticut but all around the country,” said Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Assistant Commissioner Brian Foley.

Schools in Norwich, Sprague, and Region 10 closed while others remained on high alert.  Police departments diverted manpower and resources to school buildings.

“There were more policemen in our schools not just here in this town but every town in this state,” said Stephens.

Police said students weren’t actually planning violence, but disruption.

“We’re seeing the root behind a lot of this as kids wanting to get out of school,” said Foley.

“Any of the school shootings that I know of in recent history they never notify that something’s going to happen,” Stephens said.

Children are resilient, but even they have their limits, according to Dr. Melissa Santos, chief of the pediatric psychology department at Connecticut Children’s.

Santos pointed to the toll this pandemic has taken on students.

“Nothing feels the same.  Home doesn’t feel the same.  School doesn’t feel the same.  Being with friends doesn't feel the same.  Nothing feels the same. That’s the hard part in this whole pandemic is that nothing is like it used to be,” she said.

Every threat, even those deemed non-credible, isn’t without consequence. 

“There’s going to be an arrest, your child’s going to be arrested,” said Stephens.

A 13-year-old in Naugatuck, who police say shared a social media post suggesting his classmates stay home, was arrested for breach of peace, according to police.

“There’s been multiple arrests by the Connecticut State Police and local law enforcement around the state for charges,” said Foley of the December 17 hoax.

While the threats are made anonymously in the shadows of social media, Foley said cyber detectives are experts at finding the person behind the keyboard.

These are detectives that are experts at this and have the connections there they also have the connections at the carriers -- your WiFi services, the communications carriers in the state.  Between those two they’re able to develop an IP address fairly quickly and find out who and where the source of the information came from.”

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