RICHMOND, Va. -- Hours after two students were injured in a shooting at a Newport News high school on Monday, a Richmond Public Schools spokesperson said they were notified of a social media post suggesting another act of violence at a city school.
The Instagram post referenced the school shooting at Heritage High School in Newport News and suggested another could happen Tuesday in Richmond -- specifically at Huguenot High School.
The district said it immediately collaborated with Richmond Police to increase police presence around the school.
“I’m proud of [Richmond Public Schools] and this administration for immediately contacting our families and students and alerting them of a potential threat. I understand the said threat was investigated and unfounded,” Jonathan Young, who represents the school on the Richmond School Board, said. “There can be no tolerance for anyone who threatens harm in person or a virtual format.”
A Richmond Police spokesperson said while their team hasn’t found anything that leads them to believe the threat was credible, they are working with Homeland Security to continue investigating.
Some parents posted that they decided to keep their students home from school Tuesday because they were worried about the potential of violence.
Young said another rumor spread online Tuesday claiming that there had been a shooting at Huguenot High School. The threat prompted school administrators to send another message to parents writing, “This is not true,” and RPD and Homeland Security are also investigating the newest post.
The “copycat phenomenon” has a long history in criminology, said VCU professor and law enforcement expert Dr. William Pelfrey.
“When people have diffused aggression, they’re angry at somebody but they’re not sure how to express that anger and see an expression of anger or violence in the news. Then it’s common for them to follow that same path,” he said.
Detectives have a duty to investigate every threat they receive, Pelfrey said.
“Police have to pursue every threat as if it’s a real threat because it’s impossible to differentiate a Nicholas Cruz or Adam Lanza from some other random students who’s merely angry at somebody,” he explained.
Dr. Pelfrey encouraged parents to talk to their children about speaking up when they see a threat on social media.
The first and easiest way a parent can prevent a school shooting is by restricting a child’s access to guns.
“Police are usually a third line of information before they know anything about the threat. They have to rely on the intelligence collection and distribution within the school system,” Pelfrey stated. “If parents are noticing their kids are becoming sullen, angry, threatening other kids, using violence or perpetuating any of the several indicators of conduct disorder - starting fires, hurting animals, hurting other people - they have to view their children as potential threats and intercede.”
If your child is expressing those indicators, Pelfrey urged parents to help their child seek therapy.
This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email email@example.com to send a tip.