Student in custody, parents called out after social media threat

Nov 16, 2022, 7:53 PM | Updated: 10:15 pm

GRANITE DISTRICT, Utah — A student was in police custody facing school discipline and potential criminal charges Wednesday, after a social media threat surfaced targeting three schools in 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 child’s social media use.

The threat was posted on an anonymous Instagram account that uses the official Granite Schools 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 screen shots of those confessions.

Earlier this week, a post 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 November 16 at West Lake STEM Jr. High.

The post warned students to “be careful guys be safe.”

“Making a terroristic threat, making someone feel unsafe, causing this type of disruption or panic and anxiety in your fellow students is not funny,” Ben Horsley, Granite District’s spokesperson said. “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’ smartphones 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.”

Hilkey’s dad Ryan 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.

She 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 the district took the threat as seriously as they should have. But she agreed with their message to parents to take responsibility for their child’s social media use.

“I’ll be as blunt as possible,” Horsley said. “As a parent of 5 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 they receive dozens of tips daily of harassment, cyberbullying, sexual harassment and pornography use on school property. And he worried this would be the first time many parents checked 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.”

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 plus potential criminal charges.

Horsley said the investigation had revealed that the threat was not credible and the student did not have the means to carry it out. He told KSL, the student’s parents were cooperating with Granite District police officers.

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Student in custody, parents called out after social media threat