A 16-year-old Maryland boy was charged as a juvenile with threats of mass violence and disturbing school operations in connection with a ‘joke’ post on Instagram, the Baltimore Sun reports.
Claiming his Instagram post, which showed a boy holding a magazine of ammunition, a racial epithet, and the caption “Shooting up Northeast tomorrow,” was a bad joke, he deleted the photo within moments of posting it, but not before it had been captured and reposted. He was arrested yesterday in Anne Arundel County.
“I continue to be astounded that anyone could think that anything like this, in the society in which we live at this point, is an acceptable joke,” the Sun quoted Anne Arundel County Schools spokesman Bob Mosier as saying. “Combined with what happened yesterday with the tragedy in Texas, you can’t blame parents for being afraid.”
By that comment, Mr Mosier was referring to the reaction that happened shortly after the photo was posted and recirculated, as parents rushed to ensure their children would be safe at Northeast High School in Pasadena. Police determined there was no threat to the school, since the boy who posted the picture with the threatening caption didn’t have the means to carry out the threat—he wasn’t even the boy in the photo—and he had no connection to the school.
“While the initial intent may be as a joke or prank, they’re not perceived as such by the public and by the school community,” he said. “This is not funny at all. It’s not a joking matter. It disrupts school activities, it creates anxiety, it puts people in fear.”
Even if the shooting in Texas on Sunday hadn’t happened, though, threats against schools such as bombs or guns, even if they’re intended as jokes, are no laughing matter and are always taken seriously by school officials and police.
In 2013, an 18-year-old man was locked up for several months over a threat he posted to Facebook that was considered “sarcastic,” CNN reported. “Someone had said something to the effect of ‘Oh you’re insane. You’re crazy. You’re messed up in the head,'” his father told a CNN affiliate in Austin, Texas. “To which he replied, ‘Oh yeah, I’m real messed up in the head. I’m going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still-beating hearts.'”
And earlier this year in Oregon, a 14-year-old student at Mark Morris High School in Longview was arrested for posting a ‘joke’ threat on Snapchat, KOIN-TV (CBS affiliate) reported. Police said the photo he posted “depicted a juvenile male holding what appeared to be a sub-compact rifle with the caption, ‘Don’t go to school tomorrow (markmorris).’ The photo appeared to have been taken by a second person who was also holding a pistol.”