Utah school districts warn of possible social media threats

Photo: Tooele School District

UTAH, Dec. 16, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah school districts are warning of possible social media threats Thursday.

A letter that went out to parents and guardians in the Granite School District Thursday reads:

“Dear Granite District Parents and Families,

Late last evening and early this morning, the district has been inundated with rumors circulating on social media about a possible threat to our secondary schools. The Granite District Police Department has been working tirelessly with Unified Police and other agencies. It appears that the main post being circulated is a recycled screenshot of a threat that occurred at another school outside of the state. THE SAME POST IS BEING SHARED AND REPOSTED ACROSS THE ENTIRE STATE and does not appear to be directed at any specific school within our district. We take every potential threat very seriously and continue to investigate. Out of an abundance of caution, some of our school locations will have an increased police presence through the remainder of the week.

PARENTS — WE NEED YOUR HELP. As soon as you are able, please check your student’s smartphone device for any of the following social media platforms: Snapchat, Instagram or TikTok. Please discuss with your child any threats or postings that made them feel unsafe and help them understand that they should not share those posts, but instead report this type of content to a trusted adult. If your child has any specific information that can help us identify perpetrators of threatening content, please contact Granite Police at 801-481-7122 at any time.

Many of our students are making good decisions and working hard but this situation is an unfortunate reminder that some of our students are unable to responsibly use social media. We have seen multiple instances throughout our state and even nationwide: fake threats being posted in similar fashion to what we see this morning. These threats cause needless panic and concern for our students and their families. We have asked before and we ask again. We respectfully request that if you are unable to monitor your child’s smartphone and social media use, that you restrict access to it. Schools and law enforcement do NOT have the ability to monitor tens of thousands of students’ social media accounts. This is the responsibility of the parent or guardian.

The best security system we have continues to be the eyes and ears of our students who contact trusted adults when they see unsafe behavior or situations. Please remind your students that we need their help to keep our campus and community a safe place. They can anonymously report unsafe behavior using the SafeUT app on a mobile device or web, or anonymously text us at 801-664-2929. As mentioned previously, you can always contact our police department at 801-481-7122 to report issues. As always, they can reach out to a teacher or administrator for help with any concerns.

Thanks for your patience and support as we work to keep our students and staff safe.”

Granite School District Communications Director Ben Horsley told Gephardt Daily a specific threat has been identified against Matheson Junior High at 3650 Montclair St. in Magna.

“It kind of cropped up at the same time as some of these other ones, it’s very specific and targeted towards the school, it’s posted on Instagram and we are working with law enforcement both Unified Police and Granite District Police are working on this particular one and actually making a lot progress in that investigation,” Horsley said.

Horsley said he cannot share specific details of the threat at this point.

“We’ve got some good leads,” he said. “Unknown how credible it really is; we take any threat seriously. You don’t get to come on to a Granite School District school or property and make threats against our students. We’re going to come after you, we’re going to throw every resource we can to keep our students and staff safe.

“We do have a larger police presence there this morning, to ensure the safety of students and staff. That’s obviously out of an abundance of caution, in an effort to help reassure our students who are there and our staff members who are there that their safety is paramount.”

Horsley said anyone making a threat against schools will be prosecuted vigorously.

Horsley also reiterated that every parent in the district and statewide should check their child’s cellphone.

“What is clear from today is that far too many students are sharing information that is inappropriate and making threats that are inappropriate and parents are clearly unaware of what activities their students are involved in,” he said. “We need their help. We do not have the ability to monitor tens of thousands of social media channels. If they don’t feel like they can monitor that, they should seriously consider restricting their child’s access.”

In addition, Tooele School District issued a statement Wednesday evening. That statement reads:

The school district is taking each threat that has been reported seriously and is involving law enforcement to help investigate each situation.

If you know of any specific threats or witness any suspicious activity, please reach out to law enforcement or school administration immediately.

We want to remind all students and parents when you see a threat, report it, do not repost it. Reposting a threat serves no purpose other than adding to the fear and uncertainty of the situation.

As a reminder, if a student is caught making a violent threat on social media or causing a disturbance in school, that student will face potential charges.

Gephardt Daily will have more on this developing story as information is made available.


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