Increasing numbers of young people are turning to apps such as Snapchat and TikTok during the ongoing pandemic, leading to a proliferation in online threats and a headache for schools and law enforcement.
In some cases, alleged threats made on these sites have resulted in serious charges against juveniles.
This month in Texas, three students in Lewisville ISD were arrested for allegedly making threats against campuses on Snapchat.
The Dallas Morning News reported two of the students face one felony count each of making a terroristic threat. A third student faces four misdemeanor counts of making a terroristic threat.
The three students were detained away from their campuses, according to reports. Police say the student who is facing misdemeanor charges created and spread the original threat on Snapchat. The other two students knew the threats were false but continued to spread them, according to police. All three students are being held at the Denton County Juvenile Detention Center.
The arrests came in the same week that a Lewisville IDS student was arrested by Flower Mound police for making a threat against Marcus High School in an unrelated case, police said.
Schools in Texas and elsewhere went on high alert on Dec. 17 over a TikTok post warning of a national “school shooting day.”
Seven students in Frisco in North Texas were taken into custody over online school threats.
Frisco Police Chief David Shilson told the Dallas Morning News that the students were “learning a painful lesson at too young an age.”
“These threats will be taken seriously and there are criminal consequences for anyone who threatens our schools and staff,” he said in a statement. “This is not a game or contest for more likes or followers – school threats and threats to school staff are criminal.”
He did not elaborate on what charges the students were likely to face.
The TikTok threat of violence at schools did not materialize on Dec. 17 but it was enough for some schools to close for the day.
Texas has seen a series of school shootings in recent years. In October, a student opened fire in a classroom in Timberview High School in Arlington. Two people were shot and two others suffered injuries. Timothy George Simpkins, 18, was jailed on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
In 2018, a shooter killed 10 people – eight students and two teachers – at Santa Fe High School near Houston. Dimitrios Pagourtzis, then a 17-year-old student at the school, was arrested for the killings and is being held in a secure mental health facility.
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