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Two students arrested after threats made against Miami-area schools, district says

·4 min read
Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle

Police have arrested a 15-year-old student who is accused of making a social media threat against Miami Senior High School. The threat was then altered by others to affect other schools, Miami-Dade school district officials said Monday.

By the evening, the district said a 16-year-old girl had also been arrested in connection with a separate threat incident, but didn’t release any specifics. The Miami Herald is not naming the two students because of their age.

The incident at Miami High, which is in Little Havana, was one of at least a dozen threats district officials and law enforcement have investigated over the past week. Threats like this typically drain resources and increase anxiety among parents and students. Some also demand exhaustive investigation after last week’s mass shooting at an Oxford, Michigan, school that killed four students.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen this before in the aftermath of shootings across America. There are copycat threats, which quite frankly, is unacceptable,” Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Monday.

The 15-year-old student is being charged with a felony count of written threats to kill or do bodily harm, said Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, chief communications and community engagement officer for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. It was not clear what charges the 16-year-old girl will face.

For the past several days, Miami-Dade Schools police have been investigating threats made against several schools across the county, mostly on social media, Gonzalez-Diego said.

Investigators have since determined that the student posted a threat involving Miami Senior High online, which was then “altered by other individuals and reposted on social media, affecting several other schools,” she said.

None of the threats appear to be credible, Gonzalez-Diego said.

“In an abundance of caution, there is additional police presence at several district schools,” she said. “Any act that disrupts the educational environment, depletes police resources and causes unnecessary stress on students, families and employees will result in severe consequences.”

At least one school, G. Holmes Braddock Senior High School in Southwest Miami-Dade, was placed on lockdown Monday morning while authorities investigated what turned out to be an unfounded threat, said Jaquelyn Calzadilla, executive director of external communications for the district.

No one was arrested in that incident, Calzadilla said.

Carvalho said the district has investigated about a dozen threats made to schools since last week, including Sunday night and Monday morning.

“We are very successful in identifying the perpetrators,” Carvalho said.

The district and Miami-Dade County Public Schools police worked with the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service to identify the IP address belonging to the computer of the student accused of making the threat against Miami Senior High, noted Carvalho, who added the student had no history of disciplinary problems.

Now that the student is facing a felony charge, Carvalho said the consequences are potentially life-altering — including not being able to attend certain colleges and being barred from military service.

“So my message to students across the community, or anyone, is do not engage in this foolish type of activity. Real or not, we investigate every single threat,” Carvalho said.

Broward County Public Schools also said Monday the district is investigating several threats made on social media over the past several days.

“Every threat is taken seriously and investigated in collaboration with law enforcement and the District’s Special Investigative Unit,” the district said in a statement.

Last Thursday, Broward sheriff’s deputies arrested a 17-year-old Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student on a charge of writing threats to conduct a mass shooting. The boy made threatening statements in an online chat room against the Parkland school the night before, according to detectives.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School remains the scene of the worst mass school shooting in U.S. history. Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty in October to first-degree murder in the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting, in which he killed 17 people and wounded 17 others.

Broward schools officials urged anyone who sees or hears about a threat targeting a school to report it immediately.

“Parents and guardians are asked to remind students that making a threat against a school will result in serious consequences. In Florida, it is a second-degree felony. Students also face school disciplinary measures as outlined in the Code of Student Conduct, including expulsion,” the statement reads. “School safety is all of our responsibility. Everyone is encouraged that if you see something — say something. Making a threat will result in serious consequences, even if the student thinks it’s a joke.”

Miami Herald staff writer Carli Teproff contributed to this report.

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