PICKENS — Following the recent and tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, parents here in the Upstate began questioning the safety of their own children after rumors of threats of violence began circulating on social media sites.
According to the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, the department received “numerous phone calls” from people asking about statements made on Facebook.
The Sheriff’s Office stated the posts involved threats of violence at Pickens High School and Pickens Middle School.
“The Sheriff’s Office has been in contact this morning with the Pickens Police Department along with representatives from the Pickens County School District regarding this information and has been told that the statements have been investigated and determined to be ‘rumors’ with no present credibility,” PCSO officials stated. “The Sheriff’s Office does not have any active investigation involving any school located out in the county and there have not been any known threats reported to the Sheriff’s Office.”
But the trend is worrisome.
The School District of Pickens County said although they are in “continuous contact” with law enforcement investigating rumors about school shooting threats, they are primarily investigating social media rumors — as opposed to credible threats.
Many of these rumors were simply the result of parent or student speculation on social media, they said.
Heather Marconne said while she understood spreading rumors could potentially be adding fuel to the fire, she felt parents could use social media to keep kids safe as well.
“I’ve got two kids in school and if another parent reads a threat online, I would hope they would tell people,” she said. “I don’t consider that ‘spreading rumors.’ This is scary and people say all the time it couldn’t happen here — and I bet that’s exactly what those parents in Florida said too — that it couldn’t happen there.”
District officials pointed out each time a parent posts on social media asking whether there has been a threat — or repeating second-hand information — law enforcement must look into that post to find the source of the rumor.
“This means that we are investigating the same rumors repeatedly as parents continue to share them,” they said.
One district over, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office has already made an arrest of an unidentified individual for “Disturbing School.”
A day after the shooting in Florida, an ACSO School Resource Officer was notified a note had been found in the front parking lot of Belton-Honea Path High School that referenced a possible shooting at the school.
As a result of the incident and after further investigation, a 17-year-old Belton-Honea Path High School student was arrested and transported to the Anderson County Detention Center where they were bonded and released.
“Sharing first-hand knowledge of threats directly with law enforcement or school officials is very helpful in keeping schools safe,” stated the SDPC. “Sharing second-hand rumors about threats on social media is very unhelpful, as it makes it harder to distinguish between new credible threats and recycled rumors.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.