As rumors of school shootings spread on social media, six Sioux City students have been charged with harassment — accused of creating online threats against schools in the community.
“A lot of the ones that are posting this on social media are doing it to cause panic and alarm among their fellow students,” Sioux City Police Sergeant Jeremy McClure says. “And then a few of them, I don’t know if they just think it’s funny or a joke or what, but it’s obviously a serious matter and it’s one that we’re not taking as a joke and we’re charging people appropriately when we find out who is creating these posts.”
McClure says some of the threats were tracked down before school in Sioux City started today, then police were notified of a possible copy cat message.
“We’ve been pursuing that one, so additional charges will probably be filed against several of these students as they become known to us and as we figure out who they are and locate them,” McClure says, “and then we’re also working with the schools to keep those students out of the school until they can be dealt with appropriately by the school.”
McClure says Sioux City Police received a report that one student told others he was planning to bring a gun to school today, other alleged threats were made against two different middle schools and videos posted to TikTok allegedly showed several students from Sioux City East High School brandishing their phones like guns. McClure says parents need to know what their kids are doing on social media.
“It’s important for parents to have these discussions with their kids and know what their kids are posting online,” McClure says, “and if they’re juveniles, they don’t have any right to ownership or possession and as parents, we can take their cell phones and look at exactly what they have on them.”
Also today, central Iowa authorities announced five middle school students face charges for alleged threats at their West Des Moines school last week. According to a news release from West Des Moines Police, two students will be charged with terrorism and three other students will be charged with first degree harassment. The Iowa Department of Public Safety has been monitoring potential online threats to schools in Iowa, but according to a statement from the agency, none have been identified as credible.
A 12-year-old in Dubuque faces a terrorism charge for posting a threat on social media.
(Reporting by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)