Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2018

Accused student never made threats

Oct 09, 2017
Washington Schools Superintendent Jeff Dicks, left, Washington Police Chief Greg Goodman, and Lt. Lyle Hansen give a press conference at Washington High School indicating a perceived threat to the school was a social media hoax.

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


A further news release that followed a news conference held Friday to explain the reasons classes in the Washington School District were canceled further stated that alleged threatening posts on social media were “false and misleading.”

The release said the incident that caused school to be canceled had been investigated by local law enforcement and district officials.

The findings were that the student accused of making the alleged threats involving Washington High School had not made any threats of the kind. The release said two other students had posted false information against the student of which the accused had no prior knowledge. The two students that posted the information face further disciplinary action and/or legal consequences. This morning, Washington Schools Superintendent Jeff Dicks said Washington County Attorney John Gish is examining the information and will determine if charges will be filed in connection with the incident.

“(Social media) is something we are all trying to navigate,” Dicks said. “When I say ‘all’ I mean all districts are going to face something. They are constantly being tugged at to make a decision on a social media post that then spills into the school. I think when it comes to school safety, it becomes that much more important we examine everything.”

During the news conference, Dicks and Washington Police Chief Greg Goodman asked that should threats or other information be posted on social media, people should not respond or engage with those who send a threat. It is asked people finding a social media threat take a screenshot and contact law enforcement.

After the news conference, in which the threat was declared “non-credible,” several parents continued to question the safety of students. In several cases, Washington High School principal Erik Buchholz asked the parents where they had gotten their information and why they felt it was accurate. When asked if he would feel safe sending his own children to school Monday, Buchholz said he would.

Later Buchholz commented that he could understand if parents kept their students home on Monday, saying that is something the district would work with parents on.

Washington Police Chief Greg Goodman was unavailable for comment Monday morning.

Dicks said the decision to cancel classes Friday had been made due to the fact the district did not have complete information about what was happening. He said there were several reports on social media and speculation on what people “thought they knew.”

“We didn’t even have all the information at that time,” Dick said. “We determined it was safest to just call school off and take the time to investigate it.”

He said the district and law enforcement had to rush to get the information out by 11 a.m. Friday at the news conference. He said many had been concerned afterward.

Dicks said he knows many parents wanted more information at the conference after seeing things on social media. He stressed the information on social media is “false and misleading.”

A similar incident occurred at Westlake High School in Provo, Utah, where there was a strong police presence Friday after a social media hoax had threatened violence.

Omaha, Nebraska, school district also reported social media posts that threatened students were deemed to be a hoax last week.

In September, Duncanville High School in Duncanville Texas, also reported a social media hoax involving a threatening image.

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