JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
While there are no active threats being investigated against Jefferson City schools, school officials want parents and students to know what to do in the case one does occur.
According to the FBI, there were almost 6,000 school threats reported in 2022. This was a 60% increase from 2021.
Thomas Jefferson Middle School Principal Emily Vallandingham said threats often get reported after a student hears another student say something and they tell a trusted adult, but other times, threats begin to circulate on social media.
"Your instinct might be to screenshot it and repost it, but that is not productive," Vallandingham said.
Such a case happened in February, when a threat that originated elsewhere caused concern in the Jefferson City School District.
Sgt. Andrew Lenart with the Jefferson City Police Department said not only does reposting threats create stress for families and students, it can also hinder an investigation.
"Sometimes, we have to contact three, four, or five, six different people to see where (the threat) started at," Lenart said. "Whereas, if it would get reported to us right away, that just cuts out four or five steps that we can start investigating where the actual threat came from."
Instead of reposting, officials said if students or parents see or hear a threat, they should alert a trusted adult, school official, law enforcement or report it on the Highway Patrol's Courage2Report hotline.
If a threat is heard after school hours, Vallandingham said people should call the police department or utilize Courage2Report.
The school and law enforcement agencies then work together to investigate immediately.
In the bogus February threat, Vallandingham said the school communicated with parents before school that a threat was being investigated, and later communicated that it was found to be not credible.
Both Vallandingham and Lenart said it's important to trust school officials and law enforcement if a threat occurs instead of creating panic.
"Parents and families need to trust the school system and the police department," Lenart said. "We -- the school system and the police department -- would never allow students into a building where we know there's a very strong possibility of something happening."
Lenart said JCPD is not often investigating threats against schools, but when they do happen, investigations can take hours or maybe just 30 minutes. He said oftentimes a threat is investigated within half an hour and determined it was not a threat, but rather a student thinking they were making a joke.
Vallandingham said while some threats are determined to not be credible, even the smallest of them get investigated.
"We take every threat seriously and we launch an investigation for everything, no matter how small it is, because it's so important that we keep our school safe," Vallandingham said.
Both officials also warned of false reporting and making a fake threat, which Vallandingham said can cause widespread panic and disruption. She said this can result in suspension, and Lenart said it can even result in criminal charges.
Lenart also said JCPD occasionally works with the Boone County Cyber Crimes Task Force if extra assistance is needed.