Police Respond To Recent Social Media Threats

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Ramsey Junior High in Fort Smith was put on lockdown Thursday morning (Feb. 14) as police and school officials investigated a rumor of a potential threat planned for an afternoon pep rally, according to Brittany Ransom with Fort Smith Public Schools.

Students heard about the rumor of a shooting and it quickly spread on Facebook and Twitter according to Gordon Floyd, deputy superintendent Fort Smith Public Schools.

“In an age of social media with people able to Twitter and post on Facebook and send emails, it’s really easy for a rumor to get started and just flame up,” said Dr. Floyd.

A 7th grader notified her parents about the alleged threat, who in turn called police, according to Sgt. Daniel Grubbs. Police spoke with the student and found that the story changed several times, according to Grubbs.

"However, as the information was passed along, the information changed from being a future event, to an event that had just occurred," Grubbs said.

The school was searched and no threat was found. Nearby Fairview Elementary School was also put on lockdown as a safety precaution along with Ramsey. Both lockdowns have since been lifted. Floyd said the school was never in any danger.

Fort Smith Police are working in cooperation with Fort Smith Public Schools to identify those responsible for spreading and initiating such rumors, Grubbs said.

"Students are strongly encouraged to report such information to school staff or a School Resource Officer while attending school, versus calling someone outside the school," he said. "In many instances, information loses accuracy being passed through others."

The rumor was very similar to one that had spread through Northside High School last week, according to police.

Detective Mike Warren with the Fort Smith Police Department said when investigating threats on social media sites, investigators may bring someone in so police can access their social media account and trace the threat to the original source. He said they may also contact the social media site directly.

"Facebook keeps logs of those accounts, their IP addresses and where they're being logged in from," said Det. Warren.

Depending on the type of threat, Det. Warren said the suspect may face criminal charges.

An ambulance was called to the school on the same morning on an unrelated medical call. Officials say a student suffered a seizure.