School threats in the age of social media

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MADISON COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ)- Now, to the growing influence and at times, recklessness on social media that can paralyze and panic communities.

Monday in Richmond police say a student used social media to threaten a shooting at Madison Central High School this week.

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That disrupted school, caused understandable concern, led to a police presence on campus and an investigation.

This not a harmless school prank, it’s serious, dangerous behavior that we found out reached far beyond Richmond.

The threat, posted anonymously on Instagram said there would be a shooting at “MCHS”, which was determined to be Madison Central High School.



But the commonality of that acronym caused school districts across the country to worry the threat was targeted at them.

For example, schools in Readfield, Maine cancelled classes today while investigating the post.

News outlets in Clarksville, Tennessee, report a high school there was mistaken as the one referenced in the threat and the McCreary County School District in Kentucky had to reassure parents and students the post was not directed at that school.

When it comes to making and investigating threats, like the one that happened here at Madison Central High School Monday, law enforcement officials say social media has been a game changer.

“It’s okay and I guess easy for them to sit in their private home or somewhere else and post those comments,” said Assistant Chief Rodney Richardson with the Richmond Police Department.

Police here in Richmond say social media has become the new way for people to make threats.

“You know as technologies increase and everyone seems to have access to social media so it’s very easy for someone to go online and post an anonymous post that they are threatening to do something or carry out some sort of attack on whatever organization,” said Asst. Chief Richardson.

Police say they don’t have an exact number for how many online threats they investigate but say it’s enough for them to have detectives who specialize in just that.

“So we will send them to specific training to Facebook investigations, Twitter, any kind of social media,” said Asst. Chief Richardson.

But police say social media is not solely used for bad, they say it is actually one of their best tools for solving crimes.

“The school threat that was yesterday that was discovered was sent to us several times by several different people so you know there is people out in the community looking out for others as well not just us. So with the help of those people sharing those kinds of things with us and the use of Facebook and Twitter and other social media platforms we’re able to gather that information a lot more quickly than we used to,” said Asst. Chief Richardson.

Law enforcement officials say no matter the scale or legitimacy of a threat if people see something that looks suspicious or worrisome they should immediately call police.