School Shooting Threats Posted on Facebook

By Katie Ash — October 15, 2009 1 min read
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There are two stories on the wire about school shooting threats posted on Facebook, causing educators to continue to examine policies about student behavior on social-networking sites.

The first story concerns a 17-year-old who posted on Facebook that he was going to bring a gun to his high school. Although the threat was made in May, the teen was arrested on Tuesday after school administrators found out about the post, says the article.

This particular threat was made five months ago, and although it is a serious threat, I wonder how seriously students take what they post on the Internet and if they are able to see what the consequences of their posts will be several months down the road. The teen was subsequently released after agreeing to appear in court next month.

In the second incident, parents at a school on Prince Edward Island in Canada are upset for not being informed of a school shooting threat made on Facebook. School administrators learned about the post and decided to keep the school open, but posted police officers at each door for extra safety, says the article. As news of the threat began circulating, some parents became angry that they had not been notified about the situation. The school district contends that there was no way to let students and families know on such short notice, says the article.

In addition to navigating the issue of how seriously threats made on Facebook should be taken, there’s another issue at play here: the fact that the school has no way to communicate emergency situations to parents in a timely manner. Increasingly, in an age of text messaging, e-mail, and nearly ubiquitous use of cellphones, parents are coming to expect schools to have the means to communicate with them quickly in case of an emergency. (Read more about crisis alert systems here.)

What do you think? How seriously should threats made on social-networking sites be taken? Does your school have policies in place about this kind of situation?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.