Law enforcement agencies stay busy tracking down school violence threats, students face charges

Medina Valley ISD, Boerne ISD, Comal ISD and NEISD received threats this week, officials say

San Antonios – School districts in the San Antonio-area are busy tracking down online threats and other troubling social media posts. Agencies ranging from school districts, local police and the FBI are sharing information and keeping tabs to investigate threats to see if they’re credible.

This week, Medina Valley ISD, Boerne ISD, Comal ISD, and NEISD are among the districts who have received threats of harm to their campuses.

NEISD said a 7th-grader who made online threats was caught and is facing charges. NEISD Police Detective Donald Smith said he started working on that tip early Wednesday morning.

“I was able to obtain information that led me to the suspect and got their name, where they lived. And, at that point, we had officers already ready to respond to talk to this individual,” he said.

Smith is part of a team of three at NEISD that follow leads on school threats, and he specializes in social media. Smith said about 90% of the threats are made on Instagram, and so far, luckily most have been deemed not credible.

“Students, children, they want to post things for shock value, and this is going to generate a lot of fear among the public, right?” he said. “By the time we get to the bottom of it and interview the suspect and figure out that was their intent, to get shock value or get a day off, then at that point we can determine it’s not credible, especially if there’s no access to weapons, no plan. And it was just to get people talking.”

Law enforcement agencies are in communication with school leaders to ensure that leads are followed through.

Detective Mario Alonzo is part of the NEISD police team. He said threats increased when major events involving school shootings made headlines.

Alonzo said the increase is partly due to the accessibility to social media and cellphones.

“The best thing is for parents to monitor their children’s social media accounts. Be aware what they’re using their phone for, and if they see something, report it to law enforcement,” Alonzo said.

The consequences students face for making threats vary on a case-by-case basis, and the punishments are based on what the district attorney’s office sees fit.

The parents in the fatal school shooting in Michigan were charged. Investigators say we may be nearing the time when a conversation will take place on how parents might be held accountable for the threats their children are making on social media.

NEISD also has a mental health unit that intervenes when a social media threat is made that appears to be an outcry for help. Getting a student help and resources could help decrease the likeliness that a hoax will escalate further.

NEISD has a tip hotline, and investigators say the best way to ensure they can track a threat is to take a picture or a screenshot of the threat you want to report and send it to them. Here’s the link to do that.

About the Authors

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.

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