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How can social media play a role in potential school threats?

Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 9:53 PM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - School-related threats aren’t new to the Valley.

On Tuesday, two suspects were arrested for their involvement in threatening to shoot up a West Fargo middle school.

Just last month, a student brought a loaded gun to a Fargo elementary school.

“Information was obtained that a specific threat was posted via social media,” said West Fargo Police Chief Denis Otterness, during a press conference about Tuesday’s threat.

Social media is one of many places where a school shooting threat can get started.

Experts say it can also be an influence behind the threat.

“YouTube is a black hole when it comes to information. You can start on one path and end up on a totally different path and learn a whole bunch of information that probably wasn’t valuable,” said Amanda Richter, the clinical director for Prairie St. John’s.

Kevin Thompson, a criminal justice professor at NDSU says social media can also be helpful.

“Kids post things. They might be idle threats. They might be serious threats, but when other people observe them, see them, and report them then we can prevent these incidents from happening,” he said.

Mental health experts say the threats do serve a purpose.

“It’s a cry for help, unfortunately. It’s one way to get everyone’s attention on you right now,” said Kerrie Berg, a social worker at Prairie St. John’s.

Thompson says schools are already understaffed and underfunded, so things can slip through the cracks.

“The schools don’t have the time, the effort, or the resources to monitor these sites on themselves,” he said.

He also says there are preventative measures schools can take, if the money is there.

“If we have the resources to hire some of these social media monitoring consulting firms,” Thompson said.

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