COVENTRY TWP. Ohio - Administrators in the Coventry School District say they are continuing to try and calm hysterical parents days after a message was posted to a closed Facebook group questioning whether anyone had heard about a gun that was confiscated from a middle school locker.
The original post, which has since been taken down, read:
'Just a quick question, I just received a call from the Super, as im sure most of you did, but did anyone from the middle school become aware that a student brought a gun to school a few months ago? I ended up being a pellet gun but it could've still caused harm. Just curious of anyone/parents were made aware of this past incident? Thanks.'
Superintendent Lisa Blough says the district started getting calls from parents who learned about the message and were concerned about a threat at the school.
"Not only did it cause panic within our school system, it caused panic within other school districts that were contacting us and calling us and asking us what was going on? They wanted to know if they should go into lockdown? Who was it that was causing these issues and making these threats?," said Blough.
Tina Norris, the middle school principal, immediately responded to the message saying it was not true.
"I am the principal at Coventry Middle School. There have been zero incidents of any type of gun in our school. This type of post is exactly why social media is dangerous."
But Blough says Erin Croghan, 37, who wrote the initial post, continued to post messages insisting the school district was lying and trying to cover things up.
"At first we were trying to ignore the posts that were being put on social media. I was encouraging our building administration just to let it go. We can't control everything that is said out on social media about us or about what is happening in our schools. But it reached a level of panic and being very inappropriate and very aggressive as well. So we are not going to mess around with that in today's age; you just can't. You have to take action," said Blough.
The district contacted Summit County authorities who have since charged Croghan with inducing panic.
"There's freedom of speech, but it rises to a point where it becomes inducing panic. Just like yelling fire or a bomb in a movie theater, that is not freedom of speech. At that point, you are inducing panic. This rose to that level and she was arrested and charged with inducing panic," said Summit County Sheriff's Office Inspector Bill Holland.
At the same time administrators in Coventry are trying to calm parents, school officials in Barberton and Norton were also sending robo-calls to parents in their districts trying to ease any concerns about rumored threats at their schools.
Parents in both districts got calls from their superintendents early Friday after another adult posted a message on social media about a rumored shooting at the schools.
Barberton Police Department spokesman Marty Eberhart tells Fox 8 News that the rumor involved a student that Norton police already had under investigation.
Police already knew there was never a threat to either school, but learned early Friday about a social media post that was made late Thursday.
"There's a post that appeared sometime last night that sounded like it was a concerned parent or citizen saying I heard a rumor there may be a shooting at Barberton or Norton high school," said Eberhart.
Realizing other parents would see the message online, administrators in both districts sent out a call early Friday. Norton's Superintendent telling parents:
"I woke up this morning to an email that had a copied threat being made to Norton High School today. I'm calling you to tell you that the school district and the Norton police do not consider this to be a warranted threat."
Authorities across Summit County say every perceived threat has to be taken seriously, so they are cautioning parents and adults to be responsible with the messages they share or post online.
"With social media nowadays you can spread the message to a large number of people in a short amount of time. That is the good of social media and it can also be a bad thing as well. We have been seeing it has a negative effect over this past week," said Holland.