Deputies and federal agents converge on Great Mills High School, the scene of a shooting, Tuesday morning, March 20, 2018 in Great Mills, Md. The shooting left at least three people injured including the shooter. Authorities said the situation is “contained.” (AP Photo/Alex Brandon )

Five Canadian kids charged with making school threats

Police say online threats are on the rise

Five tweens and teens have been charged with threatening schools on social media, Ontario’s provincial police said Tuesday as they reported a ”spike” in online threats following a deadly school shooting in Florida last month.

Sgt. Peter Leon said officers conducted six separate investigations in the province’s central division, starting shortly after the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 14 students and three teachers were killed.

“We started to see a spike in them,” Leon said of the online threats. “Unfortunately, when events take place south of the border…we do start to see situations present themselves here in Ontario.”

Five people between the ages of 12 and 17 were charged with uttering threats. Four of the five were students at the schools they’re accused of threatening and the other was a former student, Leon said. Police did not arrest a sixth because the person was too young to face charges.

Most of the investigations occurred in areas overseen by the Nottawasaga, Collingwood and Barrie detachments of the force but the problem is pervasive and extends beyond the province, Leon said.

On Monday, for instance, police in Bathurst, N.B., announced they had arrested three people after social media threats sent two schools into lockdown.

Local media reported similar lockdowns in Halifax on Feb. 23, in Clarenville, N.L., on March 12 and in Coxheath, N.S., on March 15.

A student on Vancouver Island was arrested on March 7 for a social media post that allegedly showed them firing a weapon into a small target with the caption “practicing for school,” local media reported.

Aimee Morrison, a professor of digital media at the University of Waterloo, said the copycat effect is well documented.

“When a school shooting happens at a high school, all of a sudden everyone is online looking for information about school shootings,” she said.

“If you are someone who’s looking to draw some kind of attention or make some sort of splash, you would also, if you were going to engage in a prank like this, probably make the prank about a high school shooting.”

Leon noted that Instagram is among the platforms where threats have popped up, and he suspected kids might be making such posts in an effort to gain followers.

Morrison concurred. She said that as Instagram has grown in popularity, it’s increasingly become a hub for kids and teens to make threatening posts.

“The hashtag ecosystem of Instagram makes it a lot easier to go viral or be discovered by a much broader range of people.”

She said the people making posts often don’t intend to follow through, but that the behaviour is still unacceptable.

“They will say, often, that they are doing it for the ‘lolz,’ that of course they’re not meant to be taken seriously, that it’s how the internet works,” she said. “But what they are doing is they are deliberately yelling ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre to get the attention, and then saying, ‘But I didn’t start any fires.’”

Leon said Ontario Provincial Police are trying to get the message out that they’re arresting people for making these sorts of threats and intend to prosecute.

“I can assure you posting an image of a firearm with threatening words following it is not the right way to go about doing things,” Leon said. “We just want the public and young children and young people to know: If they do something like this, they will be held accountable.”

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

South Surrey mother didn’t have the intent to kill her daughter: defence

Closing submissions in case of Lisa Batstone underway

Shorthanded Totems edge Walnut Grove for Top Ten Shootout title

Semiahmoo senior girls team wins Centennial Secondary-hosted basketball tournament

North Delta footie league to hold try-it clinics

North Delta Junior Australian Football League to show kids in grades 3 to 7 the basics of the sport

Surrey woman plans to travel after winning $500,000

Frances Jarvos bought her winning ticket at Willowbrook Mall in Langley

Crime in Surrey dropped by four per cent in 2018 from 2017, city’s top cop says

Surrey RCMP OIC sharing the news with council Monday as city transitions to city police force

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

Suspended B.C. legislature officers accused of ‘flagrant overspending’

Personal trips, purchases, alcohol and more laid out in 76-page report by Plecas

Alberta youth charged over theft of $17,000 in snow equipment at B.C. ski resort

Alberta RCMP recovered $17,000 in skis/snowboards believed stolen from Fernie Alpine Resort Saturday

China demands U.S. drop Huawei extradition request with Canada

Hua said China demands that the U.S. withdraw the arrest warrant against Meng Wanzhou

Giant ice disk equipped with webcam after surviving storm

Westbrook official Tina Radel says the livestream was requested by Brown University

Ousted B.C. legislature officials say report released to further blacken their reputations

James and Lenz say release was ‘Contrary to all principles of fairness and decent treatment’

B.C. animators land Oscar nominations

‘Animal Behaviour’ by Vancouver’s David Fine and Alison Snowden among several Canadians on the short list

B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

Auto shop apologizes after B.C. employees disrespect memorial convoy

Mr. Lube staff members suspended after incident Sunday in Nanaimo

Most Read

l -->