By: Chris Hoffman and Jessica Guay
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Several local police departments and the FBI are investigating a series of threats against multiple schools in Allegheny County.
Tuesday was a tumultuous day for the schools mentioned in the social media threats. Many counties said the threats were on Snapchat.
The police department said it was taking the threats very seriously. Officers searched the affected schools and provided extra security. The FBI is assisting them by providing additional resources.
“The FBI has a really good working relationship with a lot of social media companies, and we have some experts here that can help us remove some of the anonymity associated with being online,” said Assistant. Special Agent in Charge of the FBI said Joe Rothrock.
The list of schools and districts mentioned in separate threats continues to grow.
Pittsburgh Public Schools said one threat referred to Brashear High School and South Hills Middle School. North Hills School District said a threat referred to North Hills High School. A McKeesport School District school was also threatened. Those school districts had in-person sessions on Tuesday.
SEE: Reporting by Chris Hoffman of KDKA
Other schools went virtual because of the threat, including all of the Propel Schools and Penn Hills Charter Schools.
The West Mifflin Area School District said there was a threat against the high school and some students received text messages and emails from an anonymous phone number. The high school will be distance learning on Wednesday.
Sto-Rox School District sent high school students home early for virtual learning on Tuesday and they will be away on Wednesday because of a threat of violence mentioned to the school.
Stowe Township Police Chief Matthew Preininger said: “We’ve been sweeping the entire school to make sure everything is okay, to make sure the kids get out of the premises safely.
Preininger said his officers spent the day brainstorming with other departments.
“We had some officers from our department meet with some officers from other departments, took conference calls, just trying to figure out where this could be coming from, like no, is it one person, is it many people,” said Chief Preininger.
The FBI has made it clear that there are consequences if someone posts threats on social media. In fact, making a threat is a federal crime.
“So typically, any charges filed are filed at the local or state level. There are federal offenses involving threatening communications between states, and those offenses carry sentences of up to five years in prison, Rothrock said.
He said there are steps you should and shouldn’t take if you ever see a threat.
“Notify law enforcement immediately. Our state and local departments will contact the FBI if they need our resources. The other thing we’re asking them not to do is move those posts away because we’re not contributing to any misinformation that might already be there,” Rothrock said.
The FBI says it doesn’t have national or local statistics, but it appears that social media threats to schools are increasing.