Six girls in Carson City, Nev., have been arrested in connection with an incident in which other students were invited on Facebook to take part in an “Attack a Teacher Day” at two local middle schools.
One girl was accused of inviting about 100 students on the social-networking site to participate in the event on Jan. 7. The other five students were accused of responding with online threats against specific teachers, Carson Middle School Principal Dan Sadler said.
The Nevada Appeal newspaper in Carson City reported that the girls were charged with a misdemeanor for communicating threats. Their names were not released.While the students insisted it was a joke, Mr. Sadler said they were arrested on the same day a suspended 17-year-old student in Omaha, Neb., fatally shot an assistant principal and wounded his principal before fleeing the campus and taking his own life.
“School shootings really happen. That’s why we took it seriously,” Mr. Sadler told the Associated Press. “It’s not OK, and it’s not funny in this day and age if you’re going to make a threat against a teacher.”
Five of the students attend Mr. Sadler’s school, and the other attends Eagle Valley Middle School. Both schools are in the 7,600-student Carson City school district.
Eighteen students accepted the Facebook invitation to participate in the attacks at the two schools, which had been set to take place from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. A parent brought the posting to the attention of authorities, Mr. Sadler said.
Classes took place Jan. 7 without incident at both schools after students were earlier notified of the arrests and parents of the students who were arrested or accepted the Facebook invitations were contacted by authorities.
The 12- and 13-year-old students were arrested after allegedly posting threatening statements against six teachers at the two schools. One student used the word “die”before a teacher’s name, while others wrote that they would “attack” certain teachers, Mr. Sadler said.
No specifics, such as weapons or how the attacks would be carried out, were mentioned, said Carson City Sheriff’s Deputy Jessica Rivera, the school district’s resource officer. The invitation to join the attacks went out either Jan. 3 or 4.
“Even if the six girls meant it as a joke, there’s no way to know if the other students who accepted the invitation weren’t going to carry out the attacks in some fashion,” Ms. Rivera said. “The school shooting in Nebraska is just another thing that shows us you can’t take this kind of situation lightly.”
The girls were released to the custody of their parents after their arrests. The five Carson Middle School students were suspended for between three and five days; the length of suspension of the Eagle Valley student was not immediately known.
The Facebook posting was removed by the parent of the girl who sent out the invitation to join the attacks.
Mr. Sadler said the teachers targeted by the threatening comments were shocked by the arrests because the six girls were good students. Some held leadership positions, and others had top grades.
“I would say their reaction was ‘Are you serious? Is this really happening?’ ” Mr. Sadler said. “The more they thought about it, they said they were not OK with it. This is kind of disheartening to an educator.”
A version of this article appeared in the January 19, 2011 edition of Education Week as ‘Attack a Teacher Day’ Facebook Invitation Prompts Arrests