A 17-year-old student who threatened a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School made his first appearance in court Friday where a judge said he'll stay in juvenile detention for the next three weeks.
The 11th grader at the Parkland school was arrested Thursday after a caller reported seeing the threat late Wednesday night, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office. Officials said the teen had sent a text message to his classmates in a social media chat room just after 9 p.m. Wednesday.
"I feel like school shooting tmrw (tomorrow). When I sneeze it’s a signal go to the bathroom OK. I hope y’all aren’t snitches," the text message said, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The teen was charged with one count of writing a threat to conduct a mass shooting, sheriff's officials said.
The threat came one day after a student allegedly killed four classmates in Michigan.
In court Friday, it was learned it was the teen's first arrest, and that the school was suspending him for ten days and recommending expulsion.
The school's principal, Michelle Kefford, notified parents about the threat Thursday morning through a robocall. Stoneman Douglas has been at the center of national debate and activism over gun violence in schools since a former student killed 17 people and wounded another 17 in 2018.
Tony Montalto, president of Stand With Parkland, the group that represents the families whose relatives died in the 2018 shooting, said the threat “further proves the need for timely investigation and notification to parents regarding threats to schools.”
“In the wake of the Michigan shootings this week and this incident…, I urge our elected leaders at all levels of government to commit to a renewed focus on the safety of students and staff,” Montalto said.
“It’s very, very upsetting, but the right course of action happened, where students saw something, they said something, and then law enforcement did something,” said Broward School Board member Lori Alhadeff. “As a school board member, somebody who lost their daughter to gun violence it is very triggering to see these threats occur.”
Alhadeff lost her daughter, Alyssa, in the MSD High School massacre. She sponsors the Make Our Schools Safe fundraising tennis tournament every year, which was held Friday, the day after another threat against the school. Alhadeff says prevention is the key to dealing with the rash of social media threats that have occurred this year.
“We want to make sure the proper services are available for these students in need and that we get them that help so they don’t go to that next level where they make a threat,” she said.
The threat against MSD hit home for Catherine Walker, a mom who has two daughters at the school.
“It’s devastating as a parent, we send our kids to school and we hope they’re going to be safe,” Walker said.
State Representative Christine Hunschofsky, (D) Parkland, was the mayor of Parkland when the tragedy happened in 2018.
“Just a few years ago the law was changed to make it a felony if you do a social media threat online, I think what we need to do locally is make sure that we’re educating our children, our students, make sure that they know that this is serious, this isn’t a joke, this isn’t a prank,” Hunschofsky said at the tennis tournament.
One of the world’s top tennis players, Frances Tiafoe, came to the tournament to help spread the safe schools message.
“Being a little kid is one of the best times of your life, we want all these kids to be safe and feel like they can study and become the best human being they can be and not feel like every day could be your last, so we just gotta change that narrative,” Tiafoe said.
Broward County Public Schools is heavily promoting its “Think Before You Post” initiative. Students, the district says, need to know making a social media threat can ruin their lives.
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