ELYRIA, Ohio (WJW) — In the wake of a series of school threats, the Elyria City School District held a news conference Monday afternoon.
One of the incidents that was addressed happened on Dec. 5 and led to the arrest of a 13-year-old student at Westwood Middle School.
Investigators said the student used a Snapchat account in another child’s name to create a rumor that there would be a shooting at the school the following day. In response to the threat, there was a large police presence at the school until investigators determined that no students were in danger.
The student told Lorain County authorities that his goal was to get time off from school. The 13-year-old, who told detectives that he didn’t know that his post on Snapchat could be traced back to him, is facing charges of making terrorist threats, inducing panic and aggravated menacing.
At the news conference, superintendent Ann Schloss said a lot of times the students don’t really realize what they’re doing and the effect they have.
“We’ve heard this over and over, ‘Well we thought it was funny, we wanted to be cool and do what the other kids were doing,’ and we’re here to tell you, we have to take it seriously and it’s not funny,’” she said.
She explained that misinformed children believe the threats they are making on social media cannot be traced back to them when, in fact, they can.
“We have pretty much found every student or individual that has posted something that they should not have posted, so there are ways,” Schloss said. “You are not invisible.”
Elyria Mayor Frank Whitfield and Police Chief Bill Pelko, who were also at the meeting, are taking a community-wide approach to raise awareness about the problem and seek solutions.
Mayor Frank Whitfield said, “It’s unfortunate when we see it among children but it’s not unique and I think we need to do our best, to take a breath, and as a society, to try to do what we can to take care of our mental and emotional needs.”
In response to the threats, Elyria police and school officials are urging parents to more closely monitor their children’s social media accounts and on-line conversations.
The district is asking parents to partner with them by reiterating the message, “When you see it, you say it; When you hear it, you say it.”