Abington Police Chief David Del Papa is encouraging parents to speak with their kids about the forever and public nature of social media after town officials issued a third note to parents in six weeks disclosing possible threats involving Abington schools.
“Parents need to have conversations with their children about the dangers and pitfalls associated with social media,” he said. “I don’t think kids understand the gravity of some of their actions especially when it goes out on the internet.”
Abington High School Principal Jonathan Bourn sent an email out to parents and guardians Monday saying the school had “learned of a post on social media that was of a concerning nature.” He didn’t specify what was said or posted, just that the schools worked with law enforcement and “determined there was no threat.”
Del Papa declined to give any additional specifics beyond that the incident involved a juvenile who was not part of the Abington school community, that police spoke with the person and determined the threat was “not legitimate,” and that the person would not face charges.
But this incident is part of an ongoing trend of schools and police departments having to investigate possible threats. School officials in Plaistow and Hudson New Hampshire both put out statements this morning talking about possible threats, as did a middle school in Warwick, R.I. Three Whitman Hanson students are facing charges after making hoax threats on social media last week. Multiple South Shore school districts, including Abington, also started last week on a heightened state of alert after nonspecific threats were made.
Back on Nov. 7, Abington Middle/HIgh School was evacuated and searched for more than an hour while police investigated a possible threat. Del Papa said the threat was traced to an out-of-state juvenile, and he does not expect any charges from the incident.
“We have no idea why he was targeting Abington,” Del Papa said.
Abington Schools Superintendent Peter Schafer echoed Del Papa’s request that education and prevention start at home.
“We warn students all of the time about the internet and would appreciate the help of parents,” he said. “Please warn children that ‘WWW’ stands for World Wide Web. That means anything they do or say goes out to the world and lives forever. Threats, harassment and embarrassing posts don’t ever go away.”
There have been 46 school shootings since 2013, resulting in 70 deaths and 118 injuries, according to an NBC News tracker. The most recent took place on Nov. 30 in Oxford Township, Mich.
Del Papa said in this climate, online posts that allude to threats can’t be ignored and had to be taken seriously.
“When someone puts something even jokingly online, at the end of the day, it’s not a joke to the school community or law enforcement,” he said.