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Online threats made against Granite Falls High School, students

Since mid-December 2013, threats against Granite Falls High School and its students have been posted on the social media site Ask.fm.  The FBI and police were investigating.

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GRANITE FALLS, Wash. — After a month of violent threats against students and staff at Granite Falls High School, police have arrested a 17-year-old suspect who is a student at the school.

The online threats continued up until Thursday before police made their arrest. Cops say the student admitted to making the threats even though he didn’t intend on acting out on them.

policeBut we still don’t know why he did it – police reports say the student told investigators it was just a way for him to “express himself.”

“I was shocked that I was on the list,” said a 16-year-old junior at the high school. “I didn’t think I did anything wrong to anyone to become a target.”

The junior was one of nearly 100 students singled out in what police call an online campaign of harassment.

The threats to hurt and kill staff and students were placed on a Latvia-based social media website called Ask.fm.

Police and a State Patrol bomb squad served a search warrant at the student’s home in Granite Falls late Thursday night, but they did not find any materials that could be used to build explosives.

“A 17-year-old male was interviewed, confessed to making those threats,” said Shari Ireton with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

The anonymou, online threats began in mid-December and even the FBI was working to identify a suspect. Once investigators found an IP address, they searched a home on South Indiana Avenue and arrested the student.

“Kids are computer savvy. They understand this way better than we do,” said Linda Hall, superintendent of the Granite Falls School District. “It’s helping the adults get to that education point, too.”

For more than 30 days security was beefed up on campus while authorities scrambled to make an arrest.

This case highlights the influence of social media, and now the district plans to meet with state school officials to learn how to handle threats coming from the Internet.

“They used to be written on the bathroom wall,” said Hall. “Now it comes from this massive social media.”

Students at Granite Falls are left wondering why one of their own would threaten them with acts of violence.

During a hearing on Friday, a judge said there was probable cause that the child committed felony harassment and his bail was set at $250.

Police seized the student’s cell phone, and a judge told the boy he’s not allowed to access social media or anything else on the Internet.

GRANITE FALLS –  It’s been a stressful few weeks for Carol Luxmore.  Her grandson is one of more than 60 students at Granite Falls High School who has had his life threatened on the social media site Ask.fm.  He was targeted while chatting with a friend.

“Somebody came on and threatened to kill both of them.  The week previous they had threatened the girl more,” said Luxmore.

ask1Just Thursday night, several more students were threatened and the School District alerted parents through their phone alert system.

Ask.fm is an international social media site popular with teens.  They go on and an anonymous person asks them questions.  Instead, in Granite Falls it’s been used as a hit list.

“It’s incredibly scary and some of the parents aren’t allowing their kids to go to school because they’re scared,” said Luxmore.

“What if something happens?  What if someone acts on that threat and I get a call saying your child is in the hospital or worse,” said mom Elizabeth Adams.

Adam’s son was also targeted.  She and dozens of parents attended a meeting with police and school officials Thursday night.  Many were upset and say the school has not been forthcoming with information, and did not lock down the school when there was a bomb threat in mid-December.

“We are working day in and day out to investigate this because we want this to end as much as parents do,” said Granite Falls School District spokeswoman Elizabeth Holderman.

The district is now working with the FBI to track down the IP address of the person or people making these threats.  It’s not known yet if they are local or overseas.

The site Ask.fm has been under fire across the country, accused of being a platform for cyberbullying and linked to the suicides of nine students.

There are privacy settings on the site to block anonymous users.  Click on “Settings” and then “Privacy”. Click on “Do not allow anonymous questions”.  You can report inappropriate content by hovering your mouse over a post and then flagging it as spam, hate speech, violence or pornographic content.  You can also block people by going to the top of their profile and clicking on “Block”.

The Granite Falls School District plans to hold a cyber-awareness meeting with parents on Feb. 11.

Local News
01/10/14

New death threats made to Granite Falls students

GRANITE FALLS — For weeks, students at Granite Falls High School have been receiving threats by an anonymous person on the social media site Ask.fm.

On Friday, the School District confirmed there were additional threats made against several new students Thursday night.  The district sent out a phone alert to parents Friday morning.

ask

This all started in mid-December when the high school also received a bomb threat.  The district held a meeting Thursday night with parents and police to talk about how this issue is being handled.

The FBI is now investigating the threats, trying to find the IP address of the user posting the threats.  Ask.fm is an anonymous site, making it difficult to track down the users.

At the public meeting Thursday night, some parents asked why it took more than two days for many parents to learn about the bomb threat to the school made on Ask.fm and why there wasn’t an immediate lockdown or bomb-sniffing dogs brought to the school.

“There is a huge lack of communication. A lot of students didn’t know (about the bomb threat) until later in that week,” parent Tammie Curry said. “I should have known there was a problem there.”

During the meeting, the school said they notified police as soon as they learned of the threats. As for a lockdown, police say they swept the school and a lockdown was not deemed necessary.

“At this point we have nothing to lead us to believe that the students and staff are in immediate danger,” acting Granite Falls Police Chief Don Lauer said.

Ask.fm is an international website based in Latvia.  The FBI is working with them to try to obtain the IP address of the user posting threats.  The district says so far, at least 62 students have received direct threats.

The district says there is increased supervision of entrance and exit doors at the school and they are thoroughly inspecting the building before, during and after school hours.

Coming up on Q13 FOX news at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., hear from the grandmother of one student threatened, and the district response to these latest developments.

GRANITE FALLS — Parents packed a meeting at Granite Falls High School on Thursday night, outraged about how the school has been handling online death threats made to students.

graniteDozens of students have received death threats on the social media site Ask.fm, and the high school also got a bomb scare. But parents say school administrators have failed to address the threats appropriately.

Ask.fm is an anonymous site, making it hard for police to track down the users.

Elizabeth Adams says her son is one of dozens who received a death threat on the social media site. The threats started in mid-December and it hasn’t stopped.

“This is my son; I would not be able to live with it if something happens to him,” Adams said.

Senior Erin FitzGerald’s boyfriend was also targeted.

“A lot of people didn’t come to school because they were scared about it,” FitzGerald said.

“We are taking it very seriously,” Acting Police Chief Don Lauer said.

Lauer said the FBI is now involved and Ask.fm is cooperating, but that was not enough to calm the crowd.

They wanted answers to alleviate their fears; instead, many left feeling angry

“It’s a waste of a meeting,” parent Cindy Mayer said.

“They don’t want to answer any questions. They want us to listen to what they have to say. It’s not informational,” parent Tammie Curry said.

Some were asking why it took more than two days for many parents to learn about a bomb threat to the school made on Ask.fm and why there wasn’t an immediate lockdown.

“There is a huge lack of communication. A lot of students didn’t know (about the bomb threat) until later in that week,” Curry said.

“I should have known there was a problem there,” Adams said.

During the meeting, the school said they notified police as soon as they learned of the threats. As for a lockdown, police say they swept the school and a lockdown was not deemed necessary.

“At this point we have nothing to lead us to believe that the students and staff are in immediate danger,” Lauer said.

“I think the school is doing the best they can the police force, Lauer is doing a good job doing it,” parent Chris Johnson said.

During the meeting, Q13 FOX News approached school officials several times trying to get a response because parents were upset. They said they did not have time to answer questions.

GRANITE FALLS — Police responded to Granite Falls High School Wednesday morning after word of a bomb threat spread on social media sites. They didn’t find anything, but they say they’re taking the threat seriously.

Ask.fm is a social media site that the superintendent of Granite Falls School District has become familiar with. Over the weekend, some threats against students were posted on the site, along with a warning that a bomb was going to go off at the high school.

ask“It’s a social media place where people can be anonymous,” School Superintendent Linda Hall said Wednesday. “So we don’t have any names to go on. We do take everything very seriously and we’re trying to keep kids as safe as possible.”

City and county law enforcement were notified, and they searched the school before allowing classes to start Wednesday Now they’re trying to warn the community about this new form of bullying.

“There’s always new sites and we’re always learning how to respond to the new sites coming up,” said Don Lauer, Granite Falls’ acting police chief.

“We did send a school messenger out to parents. So if they’re on our system, they’re getting emails and phone calls,” Hall said. “Those have already gone out.”

Parents can’t believe threats like this are being made in their small town.

“I am super glad I home-school,” said Jenny Hammer, a mother of three.  “It’s scary these days. You can’t tell what’s going to happen, what other kids are going to do.”

Hammer says her 12-year-old son isn’t interested in social media yet. But she’s going to talk to him about what can happen online.

“I’ll leave that decision to him when he’s old enough. But I want to educate him to the dangers.”

Police say parents should monitor their kids’ online behavior. They should also call 9-1-1 if threats are made on any site.

As for this case, they’re going to keep patrolling the schools and talking to students, to find out who’s responsible.

“We’re going to take every threat seriously. We want to make sure students in Granite Falls, at every school, are safe,” said Lauer. “So we’re going to continue to have a presence to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep them safe.”

Police say if students are threatened online or by text, they should keep those messages. No evidence should be deleted until law enforcement can see it.

They have contacted Ask.fm for help with this case. But the site is based in Latvia and they haven’t gotten any cooperation yet.

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