“Swatting” Incidents Happening at Schools

Several weeks ago, I got a text and email from my teen’s school, telling us that there had been an “incident.” This is all of the information that parents got:

“On August 31, 2022, the Madison County Charter School System was alerted to a serious threat that was made on the Madison County High School using social media. Through the Madison County Sheriff’s Office investigation, it was determined the threat was made as a ” spoof caller”. The Madison County Sheriff’s Office has deemed the threat unreliable. Please know the Madison County Charter School System is taking all measures necessary to ensure the safety of all students. There will be an increased presence of law enforcement at Madison County High School.”

Needless to say, this tiny bite of information wasn’t enough to satisfy parents. As it turns out, even the teachers at the school had no idea what was going on. Viktor ended up knowing more about what happened because one of their close friends was closely involved in the incident and was called up to the counselor’s office to discuss what had happened. When the gravity of the situation hit Viktor, halfway through the day, they melted down and sent themself to the counselor’s office. Throughout the entire day, they were under the impression that their friend had been on a “hit list” and had come close to being killed at school.

We finally learned, through other avenues, that the following post had been made by someone who was trying to get a person at the school “swatted,” meaning that the police would descend on the school, find the “culprit” (who is actually completely innocent and probably has no idea what is going on), and arrest them, all while creating chaos and fear among the students and staff. (I’ve retracted the names listed on the post because there is absolutely no reason to keep them in.)

That means that there was never an actual threat – The post itself had been copied from another source and is very similar to other posts that have been shared around the country. The names of the students on the “hit list” were essentially found on Instagram and plugged into the post: The perpetrator just looked for screen names that were linked to the teen they wanted to swat and, as much as possible, had actual first and last names to make it look more credible and alarming.

I’m sharing this because it took me about 12 hours of being in the dark, angry and frightened before learning from someone else what had actually happened. They had talked directly to the Sherriff’s office because their child’s name was on the list of potential targets. I didn’t know that this was something that has been happening pretty regularly, and I didn’t understand the rather generic message from the school district about the shooting threat. Most of the high schoolers, from what I could tell, also didn’t know what was going on and were under the impression that they came very close to experiencing a mass shooting, and worse, that it appeared as if their school and the police were brushing it off.

The thing that makes me infuriated is the lack of information being given to the students, the parents, and even other educators in the area. The superintendent is not doing anyone any favors by keeping the basic facts of what occurred a secret. The kids are freaking out and the parents are being asked to brush it off.

I am, of course, relieved that the threat wasn’t going to pan out. But I’m still very frustrated with the lack of information and clarity from the school district and sheriff’s department. So I’m writing this to let you know that this is a thing that is happening, and if something similiar happens to your child, or someone you know, you can help to explain it.

All this to say, if you or your kid sees a post like this in the wild, don’t just assume it’s a joke. Report it to the school and the police and let them decide if there is an actual problem or not. I would also strongly advise you to make sure that your kids aren’t using their actual names (or their locations) on their Instagram, Tiktok, Snapchat, and other social media accounts.

The adults are failing the kids.

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