Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Two teens arrested for social media threat at Walker High

Two teens arrested for social media threat at Walker High
Posted: Mar 1, 2018
Categories: Front Page, Crime
Comments: 0
From the Walker Police:

Walker Police have an important message for anyone thinking of starting a rumor about school violence: “Be prepared to go to jail.”

According to Walker Police Department Spokesman, Captain John Sharp, school officials and law enforcement agencies throughout the Country continue to struggle with rumors of potential school violence in the wake of the school shooting in Florida that occurred on Valentine’s Day. “To date, there have been no actual or attempted acts of violence at any of the eight schools within the Walker city limits,” Captain Sharp explained. “However, our Department has addressed an incident involving a social media posting which suggested a threat of violence at Walker High School. In response to the incident, and with the assistance of the Livingston Parish School Board and the administrators of the School, an investigation was promptly undertaken.

As a result, the students involved in the incident were arrested Thursday morning.” In accordance with the policies of the Livingston Parish School Board, the students arrested have been removed from the School and will face appropriate disciplinary action by the School Board.

Police say that the incident at Walker High School involved two students who took a “selfie” photograph of themselves in a classroom at some point during the school day Wednesday. The students then “photoshopped” the image to make it appear as though one of the students had a weapon. The altered picture was then posted to social media and shared with others, including school officials and police. “As soon as we became aware of the photograph, my Officers and school officials worked to quickly identify the students in the photo,” said Walker Police Chief David Addison. “My Officers were also able to determine that the picture was altered to insert the weapon image. Officers then went to the homes of the students in the photograph and questioned them with respect to the matter. Through our investigation, we confirmed that the image was altered, and we were able to determine that there was no credible threat to the school or to any of the students, faculty or administration. This morning, both students involved were arrested.”

Addressing today’s arrests, the ever-present potential for unfounded rumors of threatened school violence and the role of social media in the rapid spread of such rumors, Chief Addison said, “The willingness of people to intentionally cause or create rumors about threats of school violence or willfully aid in the spread of such rumors is a troubling trend. Such an action is a crime and punishment for such a crime is harsh, as it should be. It is the policy of my Department to investigate any suggestion of school violence, regardless of how unlikely or dubious it may seem. Such an investigation requires a substantial amount of effort, not only by law enforcement, but on the part of School Board and School personnel as well. The investigation must be done quickly but thoroughly, since overlooking something in haste can result in tragedy. These are serious issues because the safety of our children hangs in the balance. For these reasons, it is important that students and their parents recognize and understand the severity of these crimes. Creating and spreading rumors of threatened school violence is not humorous. Creating and spreading such rumors is not harmless. These are not child-like activities for which a “time-out” is appropriate punishment. The concern, the fear and the anxiety generated by the actions of those who are responsible for these actions in not an unintended consequence. These actions are malicious. These actions do not accidently occur. They are purposely undertaken, and they create real risk and real danger. We hope that the two arrests made by my Department today demonstrate the seriousness with which we view these criminal actions. We will not tolerate this unacceptable behavior. Those who are responsible will be held accountable.”

Chief Addison added that social media users must post and share content responsibly. “Creating content suggesting that circumstances exist or will soon exist that pose a danger to human life, with the intent to cause members of the public to fear for their safety is the crime of terrorizing. Terrorizing is a felony in our State. By intentionally sharing such content without giving thought to whether the content may cause members of the public to fear for their safety, social media users are essentially aiding the content creator in the terrorizing activity. Do not be guilty of spreading this type of illegal content. Before you post or share social media content, stop and consider the nature of the content and the effect it may have on those with whom it is shared. To the parents of children who use social media I ask, do you know what your child is posting or sharing on social media? If not, why not? If we are going to stop this senseless pattern of terrorizing the public through the creation and circulation of rumored threats of school violence, we all must take responsibility and be held accountable for what we post and share through social media as well as what we allow our children to post and share. Everyone, whether students, parents, or members of the general public, must understand that significant consequences await those who engage in or assist with the creation and spreading of baseless, unsubstantiated threats of school violence. There will be zero tolerance without exception.”

Earlier this week, Livingston Parish School Superintendent Rick Wentzel issued a statement to parents asking them to speak to their children about the impact of repeating or making inappropriate statements.

“We encourage our community to come together at this time and remain vigilant so we can keep our schools safe and continue to do the important work of educating our children,” Wentzel stated.

“Arrested by Walker Police and charged with the crime of Terrorizing was Gage Allen (17) of Walker,” said Captain Sharp. “In addition, a minor, age 16, was arrested and charged with the crime of Intimidation and Interference in the Operations of Schools.” Allen was booked into the Livingston Parish Detention Center, with a bond of $25,000.00. The minor was charged and released to the custody of parents.