How Possible School Threats Online are Investigated By Schools, MSP

"This isn’t a prank. This is a felony."

Cadillac Area Public Schools, Cheboygan Area Public Schools, Chippewa Hills School District, and Big Rapids Public Schools all cancelled school on Friday due to various threats.

Cybersecurity Online Tech ComputerEach school had different messages, some that were blatantly threating violence, while others could be implied to be threatening.

“This isn’t a prank, this is a felony,” said Lt. Derrick Carroll, Michigan State Police Public Information Officer (7th District). “Some of these have come from out of state before, and a lot of these are shared on social media.”

Lt. Carroll says threats posted to social media are difficult to track down.

“A lot of times when these threats are posted on social media online, what the initial thing the person does is they share it, and then someone else shares it, and someone else shares it, and we are usually the last people notified of the threat on social media,” he said. “That makes it harder to track. It takes a lot more of our resources to know if this is a legitimate threat, and the origin of the threat.”

MSP has partnerships with internet providers to when schools report getting an online threat.

“We have relationships with internet providers where we can have emergency notifications to get the information, the IP address, track it down as soon as we can, and follow up with search warrants,” said Lt. Carroll.

Chippewa Hills’ high school and ISD students received an email from a fellow Chippewa Hills student on Thursday afternoon as school was getting out.

Superintendent Dr. Bob Grover says the email itself was not threatening, but he didn’t want to take any chances.

“We had our IT department work on tracing this to determine was it really from the student, was it somebody who maybe got on to his account or did somebody actually hack it and get into it,” said Dr. Grover. “The problem is we don’t know if it was truly that student because that student was not in attendance at the time the email was sent.”

Dr. Grover says they’re working with the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office, who has made a visit to the student and their family.

“They will determine what they can do on their end,” he said. “The investigation will continue to see if we can trace it more.”

Both Dr. Grover and Lt. Carroll say it’s time for parents to talk with their students about these threats.

“Talk about what a good approach is when these kinds of things happen,” said Dr. Grover. “Stop, think, be rational.”

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