ST. LOUIS – The Rockwood School District says two students have been identified for sending threats that prompted an early dismissal there last Thursday and Friday.
The threats prompted Marquette High School to switch to virtual learning through Tuesday of this week. Information has not been released yet regarding where the students who were behind the threats attend school.
In a letter that went out to families, the district said it couldn’t share specifics, but wanted to assure residents there will be serious consequences for anyone that puts staff and students’ safety at risk.
The Rockwood superintendent credited the Chesterfield Police, the district’s technology department and Marquette administrators for quickly identifying the students behind the separate threats.
The letter goes on to say that since last month’s deadly shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, the district has received multiple reports of rumors circulating in a number of Rockwood schools, in group chats and on social media platforms around non-specific threats to school safety. At least one of the threats last week involved the use of AirDrop.
The superintendent stressed to parents that threats are taken seriously and often will involve a safety check at a child’s home outside of school hours. Also, those responsible for making threats, regardless if there is intent to cause harm or not, will be held to the district’s code of conduct and could also face criminal charges.
Also, the letter explains that if students choose to share rumors or threats on social media, they will become part of an investigation and could face discipline as well. The superintendent says by continuing to share and spread misinformation, students can potentially cause a significant disruption to the school day, which can result in undue anxiety.
Following the shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts, the FBI said it saw a huge spike in hoax threats. FBI St. Louis Special Agent in Charge Jay Greenberg encouraged parents to talk to their children about the danger of spreading hoax threats during an October press conference.
"If you have a child that has a smartphone and they are hearing about a hoax threat or contemplating a hoax threat, as parents, we are asking you to make contact with your children. Make sure they know it is illegal, it is a crime, we will investigate it,” he said days following the school shooting.
Spectrum News reached out to the FBI following the incidents at Marquette High. The FBI didn’t discuss the specifics of last week’s threats, but said law enforcement around St. Louis were dealing with dozens of what turned out to be hoax threats following the Central Visual and Performing Arts shooting.
Rebecca Wu, public affairs officer with the FBI in St. Louis, said while local law enforcement isn’t seeing the spike in hoax threats like they did following that October shooting, hoax threats have been and continue to be an ongoing problem.
The FBI also explained officials have seen threats originate from AirDrop, but that the smartphone tool has also been used to share threats.
Lastly, Wu echoed the superintendent, reminding the public that making hoax threats is not a prank, but a federal crime.
"Law enforcement takes these threats seriously to identify the individuals who make these threats to ensure there is no threat to life. It is not hard for law enforcement to track down who made the threat,” Wu said.