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Police warn of ‘Instagram clowns,’ encourage parents to talk to kids

(KSL TV, File)

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SANDY — False reports of creepy clown threats continued Wednesday in Utah.

But in at least one city, the high publicity of the situation and a school's encouragement for parents to talk to their children about harmful pranks versus practical jokes has resulted in a student stepping forward.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Eastmont Middle School administrators warned parents that "the creepy clown phenomenon sweeping the country" had reached their school. Someone posted a picture of the school on Instagram on an account titled William.the.Killer.Clown along with a threatening message.

An extra Sandy police officer was assigned to the school Wednesday as a precaution while administrators encouraged parents to talk to their children about the appropriate use of social media. On Wednesday morning, a student went into the office to confess.

According to a letter sent to Eastmont parents by Principal Stacy Kurtzhals, the student posted the picture as a joke.

"They are very apologetic and did not realize the implications of threats toward the school and the chaos it could cause. We are thankful that this post was only a hoax and we appreciate your conversations you had with your child," the principal wrote.

Canyons School District spokesman Jeff Haney said Wednesday he did not know if the student would face any disciplinary action.

"At this point, there was a confession. And the principal did talk to the student," Haney said.

The bigger issue, he said, is for parents to talk to their children to get them to think about the consequences of their actions and how it could disrupt the normal flow of a school day.

"Parents get really concerned, and it creates a bit of panic in the community," Haney said.

That panic is fueled by social media posts and texting among students, he said.

"It creates real difficulty for the school to have a regular school day," Haney said.

Eastmont administrators planned to talk to students about the incident Wednesday.

"The principal will have informal meetings with students that words do matter, that there can be some consequences," Haney said.

Meanwhile, the clown scare continued at other schools and cities Wednesday.

"Taylorsville High School and Plymouth Elementary were briefly placed on a shelter-in-place protocol (soft lockdown) this morning as police investigated an alleged 'clown' sighting at an apartment complex nearby the schools," Granite School District posted on its Facebook page. "Police found no evidence of any suspicious activity or person, and the protocol was lifted shortly thereafter."

In St. George, the police department addressed the social media hype by referring to the situation as "Instagram clowns."

"We wanted to let you know that we do know about those ‘Bozos’ on social media making claims they're going to visit various places. We also wanted to let everyone know that there have not been any credible threats made," the department posted on its Facebook page. "Our school resource officers will be following up on some (information) they've received as to who is operating some of the sites. We also encourage parents to monitor their children's social media."

In Logan, a Mount Logan Middle School student is being investigated for electronic harassment after making threats that were reported Tuesday, police said. The male student made the threat via Facebook, according to Logan police.

"Our department is taking these incidents seriously, and when we are able to determine the source of the threat, legal action will be sought after," Logan police said in a prepared statement. "Our officers have all been made aware of the clown incidents. They will continue to perform regular, random checks of our schools both inside and out."

Logan police also asked anyone who sees a clown-related threatening message to report it to law enforcement.

Contributing: Ben Lockhart

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