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St. Joseph threat sparks anxiety nationwide

"It restricted people from learning that day. It restricted people from the social support that they needed that day in being at school. It affected parents that had to leave their jobs. And now it's affecting people across our country," Captain Jeff Wilson of the St. Joseph Police Department said.

Posted: Oct 27, 2021 9:38 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The shooting threat to Central High School posted on social media Friday, sparked anxiety in schools and homes across the country and beyond.

"I was taking phone calls at 11:30 last night,” Captain Jeff Wilson of the St. Joseph Police Department said.

Wilson says they've received hundreds upon hundreds of phone calls from California to Texas, Florida, Michigan and even Canada.

"Luckily we didn't get alerted until Saturday and we didn't have school on Saturday but if this would have happened during the week. We would have had a full lockdown at the school. We would have made sure that those kids were safe,” Taylor Elder, Moose Jaw Police Service from Moose Jaw Canada said.

All of these places have their own "central" high school.

Because the snapchat made no mention of a state, county, or city, law enforcement agencies and school districts had to take the threats seriously.

"Once one person saw it I bet I got 100 phone calls, text messages, emails, kids were calling parents, teachers, I couldn't even answer them all,” Trista Jones, Principal Thomas Co. Central High School, Georgia said.

Even after the threat was tracked all the way back to St. Joseph, Jones still had to up security and support for her students on Monday.

"People were scared, people didn't want to come to school so it was very disruptive so we ended up putting a statement out and added the articles,” Jones said.

In San Angelo, Texa, the same story.

Even after law enforcement investigated the threat, patrols were upped and leads were triple-checked.

”When we are looking at a screenshot inside of a screenshot and then somebody taking a photograph of a phone with that screenshot on it. It just made things kind of difficult for us,” Richard Espinoza, Spokesperson San Angelo Texas Police Department said.

That's the trouble with social media, a message like the one sent out Friday, goes viral reaching multiple cities, states, and even countries.

"At the end of the day, perception is reality. If kids are in a fearful environment they are not going to be learning. We had to touch base with the schools and make sure that they felt safe. Once we knew they were that we were confident that we had done our job,” Elder said.

Wilson says he hopes children and parents keep that in mind the next time they post on social media.

"It restricted people from learning that day. It restricted people from the social support that they needed that day in being at school. It affected parents that had to leave their jobs. And now it's affecting people across our country. There are times that I don't think that some of our younger folks understand the consequences of what they are doing and I just ask them to really think about things and for parents to take the time and sit down and talk to their children,” Wilson said.

Speaking with the St. Joseph Police Department and the principal in Georgia, both say social media is not all bad. It's more of a two-edged sword.

In previous cases, police and the principal say the different platforms have helped trace school threats back to their sources.

Unfortunately, this was the other side of the coin showing social media posts have real-life effects and consequences.

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