Dallas Independent School District police detained a 13-year-old T.W. Browne Middle School female student Wednesday for allegedly making a terroristic threat against the campus over social media.
The unidentified 8th grader posted on Instagram an image of a man holding a long barrel firearm pointed at the camera. The photo caption described the purported pictured person as having rape charges and was ready to go back to prison. It read, in part, that everybody at the school “is gone die. IMA kill everybody even 6graders and 7graders” and “stupid ass eight graders.” The message highlights: “this is no joke.”
At the time of the incident, on Tuesday, Dallas school district officials did not think the threat was credible. The school was not placed on lockdown or evacuated, although police officer presence was increased. According to the Dallas Morning News, Browne Middle School principal Jonathan Smith alerted parents by letter advising of the law enforcement and school administration investigation into the social media threat.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we have requested support from Dallas ISD Police. The investigation is ongoing and we are taking this very seriously. Please take this moment to reinforce the need to avoid making comments that threaten or harass others. Also, please continue to encourage our young men and women to report inappropriate comments or behavior to adults,” the letter stated.
“Ultimately, we’ve got to be clear that in the Dallas Independent School District, we aren’t going to tolerate those types of threats,” said Smith. “We’re a place for learning, we’re here for learning and we want to ensure the safety of our students, KDFW 4 reported.
At Wednesday’s afternoon press conference following the 8th grader’s arrest, Dallas ISD police Chief Craig Miller said he hoped the felony charge sent a message to other students that online threats against schools are not a joke. “I want students to know there’s a reaction to this, and if you’re caught, you’re going to be charged with a crime.”
Miller noted when they tracked down the girl as the alleged source of the post, she said she found the photo of the gun toting man on Google and shared it on Instagram to get more followers. In an online search, Breitbart Texas found the image and it appears to be a 2014 selfie taken by an Italian soccer player named Mario Balotelli.
Once Dallas police arrested the minor, officers charged her with making a terroristic threat. If convicted, she faces between 2 to 10 years in a correctional facility and a fine of up to $10,000. At the press conference, the Chief added that another student may be charged in connection with the threat because the girl did not post the threat on her own device. He cautioned parents to be cognizant of who uses their child’s computers or cell phones.
Less than two weeks ago in Arlington ISD police arrested 17-year-old high school student Shalaria Jones for allegedly threatening the campus in multiple tweets. One of the tweets displayed a handgun and claimed a shooting would take place at 12 noon. Another threatened to kill 10 people with 23 bullets. Jones faces one charge of a terroristic threat. As Breitbart Texas reported, the school district Student Code of Conduct handbooks defines a terroristic threat as a “threat of violence to any person or property with the intent to cause a reaction by an official or volunteer to deal with emergencies, prevent or interrupt the occupation or use of a building, place others in fear of serious bodily injury, or impair or influence activities of the government or school district.”
Terroristic threats made by students increased steadily statewide over the past six years, according to information maintained by the Texas Education Agency. In the 2014-15 school year, such threats numbered 1,619, up from 1,463 the year before. Tracking backwards, the agency recorded 1,405 incidences in 2012-13, 1,218 in 2011-12, and 1,141 threats in 2010-11. The lowest number of threats over the monitored period, 1,061, occurred in 2009-10 while the 2008-09 school year saw 1,084 threats.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.