EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – This week, officials the El Paso Independent School District shared that they received calls from different campuses about a social media post threatening schools.
EPISD officials say the post was reported to the police and investigated, determining that the post was not directed towards EPISD campus’s and was not from El Paso.
The threat was a picture, showing writing on a wall telling students not to go to school on September 23 or 24.
“A post that’s being shared nationwide, there’s multiple stories out there of different communities not even in Texas investigating the same threat so that’s how you know it’s something being shared, it’s a prank,” said Melissa Martinez EPISD Spokesperson.
EPISD officials alerted parents that the district was aware of the threat, that it had been investigated, and was determined to be a hoax.
“Other times when there’s a threat and it’s perhaps more vague and it’s being investigated we will have increased officers on campus for peace of mind you know mostly for peace of mind since it’s out there. But in this case since it was very quickly resolved that it wasn’t even an El Paso post we put messaging out just to let parents know that,” said Martinez.
Officials advise both students and parents to report any type of threat when they see and not to share the post.
“If it’s after hours you can call 911 for sure, but you also can report it you can direct message the district on social media and we see it and we also share it with police but the best thing to do if it’s after hours is just report it to the police,” said Melissa Martinez.
Officials with the FBI’s El Paso office tell KTSM 9 News that hoax threats have been a problem in the community for over three years and, that in the past three weeks, social media threats have been made towards local schools.
“A lot of individuals post those on there and then when they’re interviewed by law enforcement they say ‘oh it was a joke…I didn’t mean it…it was a lapse of judgment at the time,” said Jeanette Harper the Public Affairs Officer at FBI El Paso.
Harper says posting a threat – even if it is a hoax – is a federal crime.
“A lot of young adults don’t think it’s a crime they think it’s a joke, it’s not. It’s threatening interstate communication and also false information and hoax,” said Harper.
Harper also explained the consequences and jail time involved in making threats and acting on those threats.
“If an individual is going to send a threat out there to a school, to a house of worship, to a hospital, or just any public place these individuals can see federal penalties of up to 5 years in jail and that’s per offense now if there’s an injury the individual can face up to 20 years in prison and of course if there is a life taken if we’ve seen that some of these active shooters actually act on that threat then there could be life imprisonment,” said Harper.