Rash Of ‘Copycat’ Threats Plauge Connecticut Ahead Of Sandy Hook Anniversary
Schools across Connecticut have reported several incidents of hoax threats that have forced schools to put stricter security measures in place which include lockdowns and, in some cases, arrests.
Connecticut police believe that the threats across schools in Greenwich, Hamden, Danbury, Trumball, Norwalk, New Haven, West Haven, and Stamford appear to be “copycat” incidents circulating through social media. The social media trend is encouraging students to post anonymous hate threats online as a way to get out of school, according to police officials.
“I do believe they are copycat incidents,” said Brian Foley, an assistant to Connecticut’s public safety commissioner, told reporters. “It’s not like one ring of people that are spreading [the threats] out all over the place,” he added.
The threat started just ahead of the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Massacre, which occurred on Dec. 14, 2012, and left 27 children and adults dead.
Schools have arrested students that are found to be responsible for the rash of hoaxes. Greenwich High School discovered a “disturbing message” in the school bathroom and has since arrested the responsible juvenile.
At Norwalk High School, a student was arrested following multiple threats resulting in an evacuation, the 14-year-old student was using a virtual private network (VPN) to post threats with the assistance of an individual in Europe. The use of the VPN initially hindered police in identifying who was responsible for the messages, the student had made three threats over an eight-day period.
“It is very difficult to get on with the business of teaching and learning in the aftermath of such an event,” said Mary Yordon, president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers. “Three times in less than a week is overwhelming for all involved — staff, students, and families.”
Hamden High School has also received multiple threats that forced the school to shut down for a few days before reopening and increasing security measures, which ultimately led to an arrest. The school has initiated a policy that requires students entering the premises to be screened with a wand and metal detectors will be placed at the school for the next two weeks. Another School in Hamden, Eli Whitney Tech, also received a hoax threat via social media.
Trumball High School reported a similar incident stemming from a conversation between two students that turned into a rumor of a “planned school shooting,” which was determined to be untrue. Other incidents of hoax threats and school closures have been reported at schools in Danbury and New Haven as well.
Elizabeth Englander, the executive director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater University, who studies how children’s use of technology affects their relationships, explained the use of social media in regard to communication among kids.
“Children have always interacted with other kids without their parents knowing, let’s be clear,” she said. “That is nothing new. What has changed, I think, is digital technology and social media have created more opportunities for that. So there are now more settings where kids can interact with other kids without their parents knowing.”