Police Respond to More School Threats, Urge Parents to Monitor Students’ Social Media Use
Montgomery County Police in the 5th District in Germantown have responded to numerous school threats since the Parkland high school shooting on February 14, according to police officials.
“Since Parkland we have responded to more than a dozen of these types of threats in the Germantown district alone,” 5th District Deputy Commander, Lt. Amy Daum. “I don’t want to go into the specifics of each one, but they range from comments made on social media to kids making them because felt that it was funny.”
“At least five students have been charged with making these threats,” said Daum and she expects that there may be more charges filed in the future. “We have worked collaboratively with MCPS to make sure that our schools are safe for everyone that is in them. Each one of these threats has been thoroughly investigated by Montgomery County Police,” she said.
On Sunday, Montgomery County Police issued a statement regarding school threats, which have been rampant throughout the County with a bomb threat at Einstein High School on Thursday, March 1 and the report of a student with a firearm at Silver Spring International Middle School on Wednesday, Feb. 28.
“In the two weeks since the high school shooting that occurred in Parkland, Florida, the Montgomery County Police Department has experienced a significant increase in the number of threats directed at schools throughout the County,” read the statement. “These threats, directed toward other students and/or the school community, have come in the form of phone calls, conversations, writings, emails, and social media. Some of these threats have been direct while others have used suggestive words and/or images. The majority of these threats have proved not to be credible after MCPD has conducted investigations.”
Daum said that these threats in the Germantown area are not confined to just high schools, and they are being made against middle schools and elementary schools as well.
“Many of the people making these threats have motives that range from wanting to disrupt school activities to making the threat as a prank,” said the MCPD statement.
According to Daum, the issue is countywide, but some MCPD districts have seen a greater uptick in these sorts of threats than others. The increase in Germantown has been dramatic. She indicated that while these sort of threats had occurred in the past, the frequency has increased from less than one per six month period to more than a dozen in the last 20 days.
Germantown Pulse has learned there have been at least two separate incidents of threats made against Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Germantown, one at Waters Landing Elementary School, and another at Great Seneca Creek Elementary School in the last 10 days.
The MCPD fully investigates each threat and works to identify the person or persons responsible for making the threat, the MCPD statement read.
In some at least five Germantown cases, those making the threats have been criminally charged. Charges applicable to making threats include the following:
Education Article 26-101-Disorderly Conduct/Disruption of School Activities, which carries a penalty, if convicted, of $2,500, imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both.
Criminal Law 3-1001-Threat of Mass Violence, and Criminal Law 6-107(a)(2)-Threat of Arson/Destructive devices, both of those charges carry a penalty, if convicted, of 10 years in prison or $10,000 fine.
According to Daum, parental involvement in social media is paramount to ending this rash of school threats.
“I encourage parents to always be aware of what their kids are posting on social media,” said Daum. “It is important to have those conversations with kids about, not only what are they are posting but what are their friends posting. Also, not to re-post any threats. If a students or parents see a threat, do not repost it. Contact police so we can respond and investigate without it getting spread further along. It can be very difficult and time consuming to try to track down the origin of a specific threat once it is re-posted and spread out on social media. We’d like to know about it as soon as possible, so we can start our investigation to figure out if it is voracious our not.”
MCPD urges parents to consider the following points:
1. Monitor your child’s social media and talk to him/her about using social media responsibly.
2. See something, say something – If you or your child become aware of a threat or other suspicious activity that is concerning, please call the police. In regard to social media, please do not share the concerning message – again, call the police.
3. Remind your child that any threat made will be investigated, even if the child’s intention is to be humorous.
Daum warned that she has had conversations with the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office regarding the prosecution of students making threats against schools and the police and the prosecutor’s office are going to take these charges lightly.
“I have had discussions with the State’s Attorney’s Office regarding these charges. I have encouraged our School Resource Officers specifically to work collaboratively within the schools and to charge violators — specifically with those threats which include mass violence and the State’s Attorney’s Office is on board with that decision and are willing to prosecute these kids.”
File Photo by Germantown Pulse.