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One-third of school threats come through social media, study shows

By Paul Nelson | Posted - Mar 11th, 2014 @ 9:19am

SALT LAKE CITY — A recent study shows a large number of school threats come through social media. So, what can educators do to monitor threats they might see online?

Researchers from Cleveland added up all the threats of bombs, shootings and hoaxes over a six-month period from late 2013 to 2014. Researchers said one-third of those threats came through social media sites.

So, what can be done about it?

Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley has heard of one district in California that hired people to monitor the social media activities of all their students. But, Horsley said doing something like that here just wouldn’t be possible.

"The cost and effectiveness of such a program is just not feasible, and neither is it effective,” Horsley said.

He said many parents don’t know about the different kinds of social media available. Major sites like Facebook and Twitter are well-known, but other sites like Tumblr, Whisper and go largely unnoticed.

"These kids know how to utilize these tools and in most instances, we’re finding that parents don’t even know what they are, or what’s on their child’s phone,” Horsley said.

How threats were delivered
  • Electronic, including social media, email, text message (35%)
  • Bathroom graffiti (15%)
  • Note found in school (9%)
  • Phone threats (11%)
  • Verbal threats (10%)
  • Police refused to say how threat was delivered (18%)

But he said students are stepping up and helping district officials find potential problems.

"The best security system we have is the eyes and ears of our students, seeing inappropriate or unsafe activity and reporting it to the proper officials,” Horsley said.

Schools have drop-boxes where students can leave handwritten notes warning school officials of potential threats, he said. Plus students can call hotlines if they notice a problem.

"We’re finding that students are willing to utilize the tools that we provide them. So, it’s incumbent upon us to provide resources where they can report some of these things anonymously,” Horsley said.

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