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Granite District student in custody; parents called out after social media threat

A student was in police custody facing school discipline and potential criminal charges Wednesday after a social media threat surfaced targeting three schools in the Granite School District.

A student was in police custody facing school discipline and potential criminal charges Wednesday after a social media threat surfaced targeting three schools in the Granite School District. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)


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SOUTH SALT LAKE — A student was in police custody facing school discipline and potential criminal charges Wednesday after a social media threat surfaced targeting three schools in the Granite School District.

As district officials alerted parents of the threat Tuesday, they included a stern call for all of them to take responsibility and monitor their children's social media use.

The threat was posted on an anonymous Instagram account that uses the official Granite School District logo as its profile picture. The bio on the account included a link to an online form for students to submit "confessions" about junior high schools in the district.

The posts include screenshots of those confessions.

Earlier this week, a post on the account said, "My friend had friends that said that West Lake, Matheson and Hunter are all going to get shot up, like the shooters have a plan." The post claimed the shooters had dates targeting the schools, including Nov. 16 at West Lake STEM Junior High.

The post warned students to "be careful guys be safe."

Ben Horsley, Granite School District spokesman, said the investigation into the posts revealed that the threat was not credible and the student who wrote them did not have the means to carry it out. The student's parents were cooperating with Granite School District police officers, according to Horsley.

In a follow-up email to parents after classes ended on Wednesday, Horsley said the student had been identified and taken into police custody. He said the student would face district and school discipline, as well as potential criminal charges.

"Making a terroristic threat, making someone feel unsafe, causing this type of disruption or panic and anxiety in your fellow students is not funny," Horsley said. "(It's) just an unfortunate reminder that students oftentimes do not have the capacity to use social media responsibly."

The school principal sent an email to parents, warning them of the possible threat and asking for their help to check their students' cellphones for the Instagram account.

Classes went on as usual at West Lake STEM on Wednesday, but with more police officers present and 40% fewer students, who decided not to come to class because of the threat.

Kaden Hilkey, a seventh grader at the school, said, "Everyone was nervous, but the cops were everywhere." He added that "some kids were making jokes about it, but the teachers took care of that."

Kaden's dad, Ryan Hilkey, has kids at Granger High and said it wasn't the first time he had received a message like that from the district.

"But it's shocking. It's scary. You just never know," he said.

Krystal Fugal's initial reaction to her eighth grade daughter was, "Heck no! You're not going to school." Her daughter insisted she needed to go because of a project that was due.

Fugal did end up sending her to school, but she was there in the morning to see whether there were officers on campus. She said she kept in contact with her daughter throughout the day.

Fugal said she did not think district officials took the threat as seriously as they should have. But she agreed with their message to parents to take responsibility for their children's social media use.

"I'll be as blunt as possible," Horsley said. "As a parent of five children, there is not any data to suggest, there's not any scientific research, that there is any benefit to minor children's use of social media."

Horsley said the district receives dozens of tips daily of harassment, cyberbullying, sexual harassment and pornography use on school property. And he worries this latest threat might be the first time many parents check their child's phone and social media use.

"We need parents' help. We cannot possibly monitor tens of thousands of individual students' social media accounts," he said.

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Utah K-12 educationUtahSalt Lake CountyPolice & CourtsEducation
Matt Rascon

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