Police: Student arrested for making threat against Walt Whitman High School on social media

Officials say officers were called to the school at around 12:30 p.m. Once there, they searched the student's locker, backpack and home.

Caroline Flynn and Krista McNally

Feb 16, 2024, 10:57 AM

Updated 62 days ago

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Police say a 15-year-old student at Walt Whitman High School was arrested Thursday for posting a threat of mass harm on social media.
Officials say officers were called to the school at around 12:30 p.m. Once there, they searched the student's locker, backpack and home.
Police did not find anything and determined that there was no credible threat.
The superintendent of the South Huntington Union Free School District Dr. Vito D’Elia released a statement saying “There was an incident where a student misused social media, resulting in negative effects not only to themselves but to our school community. Social media platforms have begun to work with law enforcement agencies to help limit and cease the spread of violent messages by sharing these messages with law enforcement officials allowing them to quickly identify the source of potential threats. This was the case today, where the social media forum Snapchat shared a concerning message with the FBI, who then shared the information with the Suffolk County Police Department.  Suffolk Police officers responded to the school and after investigating, the Suffolk Police Department ascertained that it was a student within Walt Whitman High School who was responsible for the posting.  That student was interviewed by police and then taken into custody.”
Walt Whitman High School principal John Murphy said the speed at which both the social media app and law enforcement responded was shocking.
"It showed the system is working, but it's also a real and scary thing that it works so quickly. We have to be ever mindful of what we say, because it could be minutes later someone is asking us about those things," Murphy said.
The school administrator encouraged parents to speak with their children about the repercussions of writing hateful messages and ones that spark concern and fear.
"Kids and our society in general are held to task on the words we put out there in to the world," he said. "We need to do a better job at policing ourselves as well as our family members to ensure we are not saying anything that could put us in a bad light or make people nervous or scared for our safety."
The 15-year-old was charged with making a threat of mass harm and will be in family court at a later date.
John Bandler, an adjunct associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, tells News 12 social media companies may monitor what people are posting on their platforms, or key words that indicate a threat is being made.
Bandler stated, “The First Amendment gives protection to certain speech, most agree that threatening speech or to do harm are not protected speech, those words have consequences.” He went on to say, “Some social media companies are apparently watching for this, reporting it, and that law enforcement is acting quickly on it in this instance.”


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