Tensions are so high at schools in Miami-Dade following the mass shooting in Broward that school-aimed threats on social media have skyrocketed from about one a week to more than 50 in a single day — and Miami-Dade school officials warned parents Friday there will be legal and disciplinary consequences for any student who initiates a threat.
The school board initiated a round of robo-calls to parents Friday make sure they convey the message to students.
“[Miami-Dade County Public Schools] is reminding the public and students that a written threat to kill or harm is a felony, will not be tolerated and perpetrators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said M-DCPS spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego in a statement Friday. “As a district, we will continue to emphasize the importance of responsible social media use.”
Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief Ian A. Moffett told the Miami Herald the department usually receives about one threat a week. But after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that killed 17 people on Wednesday, threats leaped to more than 50 in one day.
“We’re getting people reposting threatening pictures that they saw and people posting specific threats to schools that talk about harming others. Those threats have come in many forms. Some talk about explosives, while others have talked about duplicating what happened in Broward,” Moffett told the Miami Herald.
Police say only one of the threats has resulted in an arrest as of Friday afternoon — a 13-year-old student at Miami Lakes Middle School. Three other threats are still under investigation, while the other were deemed “not credible.”
“So far none of these threats appear to be credible or legitimate, but we do not take a chance. We investigate every single threat,” said Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade County Public School superintendent, adding that all of the threats resulted in police involvement at the schools.
Some of the dozens of schools that received threats include Southwest Senior High, Ferguson High, Jorge Mas Canosa Middle School and W.R. Thomas Middle.
On Friday, Hialeah police saturated the area near Hialeah High School after getting a call about a suspicious person carrying a gun.
“Hialeah units also conducted a search of the nearby areas and again did not observe nor locate any suspicious individuals,” police spokesman Edward Rodriguez. “At no time was there a shooting or an active shooter.”
Shortly after, the Miami Herald received a video that showed a school security guard standing on a rooftop at Ronald Reagan High School in Doral. The guard pretended to shoot students on the ground floor, using his hands as pretend gun.
“We've looked into it and we know that it is an employee. We are currently taking action regarding his employment,” Moffett said.
On Thursday, a 12-year-old girl in Davie was arrested after she admitted slipping a note under the assistant principal’s door that said she would kill kids and teachers, police say. Also arrested? A 17-year-old student in Sunrise. Police say Rodriguez posted a selfie on Snapchat threatening to "shoot up" Piper High School.
Shortly after, Hallandale High and Hallandale Beach schools “received threats of a shooting” in an Instagram post, which was ultimately determined to be a false alarm.
The problem isn’t just in South Florida. School districts across the country are battling similar hoaxes.
On Friday, a South Carolina high school student was arrested after posting a photo of himself holding a weapon on Snapchat. The caption? “Round two of Florida”
Always, there is the possibility that a threat is legitimate.
A day before the Douglas High shooting, an 18-year-old in Everett, Washington, was arrested after his grandmother found his journal with entries detailing his plans to shoot classmates at his high school, police say. In the journal, he mentioned planning to use a semiautomatic rifle and homemade explosives.
“Parents have responsibility to know what their children are doing,” Moffett said. “They have the responsibility of being the chief law enforcement officer in their home before they have to come to us and other forms of government to provide them.”