When a social media post appeared Saturday in Jessamine County that implied that a teenager was poised to shoot up a school, it shared company with threats across the country, from Texas to Colorado to Florida.
Threats of violence in schools have spread noticeably since last Wednesday, when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz is alleged to have walked into a Florida high school and murdered 17 people.
In the Nicholasville threat, a photo of a boy with a handgun accompanied text that said “Be ready for school monday Jessamine County.” Two teenagers were arrested early Sunday morning and charged with terroristic threatening.
It was merely the latest threat among many. By Sunday evening, a middle schooler in Clay County was taken into custody after posting a threat on Facebook, and in Knox County three people were arrested in connection with social media threats against the school district there.
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The Miami Herald reported Saturday that school threats in Miami had skyrocketed from one per week to 50 per day.
“We’re getting people reposting threatening pictures that they saw and people posting specific threats to schools that talk harming about others,” Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief Ian A. Moffett told the Miami Herald. “Those threats have come in many forms. Some talk about explosives, while others have talked about duplicating what happened in Broward,” the scene of last week’s shooting.
Miami police said only one of the threats resulted in an arrest as of Friday afternoon — a 13-year-old student at Miami Lakes Middle School. Three other threats were still under investigation, while the others were deemed “not credible.”
On Friday, a South Carolina high school student was arrested after posting a photo of himself holding a weapon on social media platform Snapchat with the caption, “Round two of Florida.”
Two teenagers were arrested in the Houston area Friday after being accused of making separate threats on Snapchat.
One student, age 14, threatened Friday morning to open fire at a Missouri City, Texas, middle school. He also used Snapchat to broadcast his threat. By the afternoon in the Texas town of Katy, a 15-year-old student was allegedly posting a new threat on Snapchat. This time, the message contained an image of students fleeing the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and a claim that he would do the same at a nearby charter school.
Both of those students were charged with making a terroristic threat, a felony. The Jessamine County teens charged Sunday face similar charges.
In Rockland, Mass., two teenagers were accused of threatening school shootings in a call to a Boston TV station. The two freshmen were charged with terroristic threatening.
A Bridgewater, Mass., teen was also arrested after several people reported a message on Snapchat that read “Florida part 2.”
In an interview with the Washington Post, Mary Ellen O’Toole, a former FBI profiler, noted the impact that results from nationally covered tragedies such as those at the Florida school and just weeks earlier in Marshall County, Ky.
“There are certain things that occur in our culture that can provoke the desire to engage in similar behavior,” O’Toole told the Post. “We know the crime of mass shootings, especially like this one, can provoke someone who’s already considering it.”
The life-and-death finality of a school shooting might be escaping those making threats and, sometimes, carrying through on them, O’Toole said.
Even for those issuing the threats as a mere hoax, the gravity of the issue might not be apparent.
“When you do it behind a computer screen, you don’t see that at the other end, you’ve put somebody in tears,” she said.
The Washington Post and the Associated Press contributed to this report.