NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: #Fakethreats? This is time for zero tolerance

School shootings are no joke. And anyone playing fast and loose with their comments on social media or in any other way following the mass killings in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine’s Day should be prepared to face serious repercussions.

News-Sentinel.com reporter Kevin Kilbane reported two incidents last week that affected schools locally, both of which could have been just a “joke.”

But nobody has been laughing.

One incident Thursday at Woodlan Jr.-Sr. High School involved a 14-year-old boy who posted, “I’m shooting up Woodlan” on his Snapchat social media account. There was no shooting and maybe not even any real threat. But there was panic at the school, according to the police report, and the student was arrested on a charge of intimidation and taken to the Allen County Juvenile Center. He reportedly said he posted the threat as a joke.

Kilbane also reported on an alleged threat Thursday posted originally on Facebook that set off school and law enforcement investigations at Snider High School as well as other schools around the country with the initials SHS. The posting said he or she would be bringing a gun to the “SHS” school that day, and people should “be prepared to hear shoots (the person’s wording).”

Fort Wayne Community Schools said no guns were found at any FWCS school, no students were arrested and no schools were on lockdown. Fort Wayne Police Department investigators determined the post was made in Ohio.

Now is past time for parents and teachers to confront their children about the seriousness of the scourge of school shootings throughout the country. They need to be warned that making anything resembling a threat in any way can and should set in motion a firestorm of responses to intervene before any such threat could become action.

This is a time for zero tolerance.

The Associated Press reported last week that the Ohio-based Educators School Safety Network recorded about 50 threats a day on average nationally since the shooting in Parkland, Fla. — five times more than normal.

The AP reported that two days after the Florida shooting, a school security officer overheard a student saying he was “going to shoot up” El Camino High School in Whittier, Calif. That 17-year-old student claimed it was a joke, too, but a search of his home turned up two AR-15 rifles, 90 high-capacity magazines and two handguns.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who heads the nation’s largest sheriff’s department, told AP there is a “need to take every potential threat seriously.”

Broward County deputies in Florida say they received at least 18 calls warning them about Nikolas Cruz from 2008 to 2017, including concerns that he “planned to shoot up the school.” He’s accused of killing 17 people on Feb. 14. Somebody there dropped the ball.

Be thankful our local authorities responded to the Woodlan and SHS threats as they did.

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