School threats, an all-too-common problem

Washoe County schools have received no less than 82 separate threats in the past four years, Ed Pearce reports.
Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 5:45 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - A post that went viral on the social media platform Tik-Tok raised fears of a possible school shooting across the country. Many school districts, including Carson City, chose to cancel classes.

That didn’t happen in Washoe County, but school threats remain a frequent concern here and elsewhere.

Schools were closed across most of Washoe County Friday, but that was not in response to the vague threat posted on Tik Tok. It had long been scheduled as a teacher workday. But school administrators here understood their Carson City counterparts’ decision. It’s one they have had to face all too often.

“We take every single threat exceptionally seriously, and our school police, our counselors, or our school administrators, will investigate those threats and see if they are credible,” said Washoe School Superintendent Dr. Kristen McNeill. “And if there is a threat, we will we will follow through to the full extent of the law.”.

In 2013, a 12-year-old seventh-grader brought a gun to Sparks Middle School, wounding two students and killing a teacher who tried to intervene, before turning the gun on himself. The boy had apparently been bullied at school and, possibly at home. He didn’t announce his intentions on social media, but the incident left many wondering if there were more subtle warnings that went unnoticed.

These days the concern is more often that there are genuine threats hiding among all the pranks and rants posted online. There are a lot of those. Records we’ve obtained show just how common threats have been in recent years.

Washoe County schools have received no less than 82 separate threats in the past four years. The numbers were rising sharply in the years leading up to the pandemic. Understandably they fell sharply, but are already increasing again. Those trends, by the way, mirror national stats kept by the Educator’s School Safety network which has been tracking them since 2013.

The fear, of course, is the next social media post could be a genuine threat. “A threat is a threat,” says McNeill. . “And until it’s determined that it’s credible or not credible. We’re not going to give up. We can’t. It’s the safety of our students and our staff. That’s, at stake.”

Social media and the opportunity it poses for mischief and worse isn’t going away. McNeill says this isn’t just our schools’ problem to solve. It may take all of us.

“This is a conversation that we have to engage in as communities. You know, this, this is a community issue. We know that our parents are very concerned about it. We have information, you know, that that help our parents into how to talk about this, how to use social media appropriately.”

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