Last night, students from Wissahickon High School were concerned when they came across a troubling Instagram post and message from a fellow student. Independent of each other, the students reported the post and it’s alleged threatening message to Wissahickon High School’s School Resource Officer (SRO), who also happens to be a Lower Gwynedd Township Police Officer. All Wissahickon High School students have been given the SRO’s contact information in the past, and have been told to contact her with anything safety related…these students followed these instructions and correctly reported this threat.
Promptly following these reports, Wissahickon High School messaged the school community last night, that they have been made aware of the threat and things were being taken care of. This morning, Principal Lynne Blair, as well as Superintendent James Crisfield addressed the community.
Both letters can be read below:
Threat Alert Update
Oct 29 2018
Last evening, I was made aware of a threat posted on social media indicating that a WHS student intended on harming another WHS student in school. The local police were immediately contacted, as well as the families of the students directly involved in the incident. After a thorough investigation and support from the local police, we were able to bring resolution to the threat, at which time a message was shared with our students, parents, and staff. Our focus last night was to let the community know that we were aware of the threat and that it was getting our full attention; we wanted all of our students to know that their safety was not compromised, given the nature of the posted threat. Last evening, I was not able to share additional details of the investigation with our school community but this morning, I can share with you that late last night, the student who made the threat has been arrested and detained. I can assure you that school safety is and will continue to be our top priority. Situations like this are very complex and as we have seen, with the involvement of social media, even more challenging to navigate because information spreads very quickly. We understand the concerns of our students, parents, and staff and appreciate the partnership in keeping our schools safe spaces and we appreciate your patience as we balance a need to share information with the processes of our legal system.
Lynne Blair, Principal
Dear Parents and Guardians:
I would like to take this opportunity to explore further the recent situation at WHS regarding a threat made on social media by a student towards another student.
- Late last night, WHS administration became aware of a threat made on social media by a WHS student towards another WHS student. Our response protocol was initiated, the threat was determined to be credible, and law enforcement immediately took over and detained the student in question within the hour. The student involved is still in custody and will remain so while the matter works its way through the legal system.
- The timing of this situation was not easy. Not only was it late on a Sunday night, but it also came on the heels of the tragedy in Pittsburgh earlier in the weekend, which put all of us in a combined state of grief and indignation.
- On the communication front, we sent out a short message to the WHS community late Sunday night in response to rumors circulating on social media, followed up by a more detailed message early this morning. There were many, many factors at work, all at once, which compromised our ability to get details out in a timely manner. I know it can be frustrating when details are not forthcoming—please know we are often under some very specific constraints, and try to do the best we can given the circumstances. I assure you we do not withhold information on purpose—sometimes, we just can’t share for one of a number of reasons (ongoing law enforcement operation, legal/privacy rights, etc.).
- Having said that, we are going to make note of two key lessons learned. The first is that exact words matter in situations like this (e.g., when we noted that the situation has been “handled,” that left too much open to interpretation). Also, in the short (and frankly rushed) late night message, we should have noted that a follow-up communication (with more details) would be forthcoming ASAP. We will learn from these to keep getting better at this, though I have to admit I hope we don’t have any more of these situations.
- If there is any positive takeaway from an otherwise depressing and discouraging situation, it would be that the alert system worked. That is, students noticed something very wrong and amiss on social media and immediately reported it to adults, which immediately initiated our response protocols. We have no way of effectively monitoring private social media accounts—we simply must rely on students for that, and our students came through on that front with flying colors. It goes without saying that the value of their responsible actions cannot be overstated.
In closing, situations like this are very trying, and extremely worrisome, and it’s a sad state of affairs in 2018 when districts all over the county are grappling with more and more incidents like this. I know we all wish that wasn’t the case, and I certainly wish I could tell you there are easy and comforting answers, but there just aren’t. What I CAN tell you is we will continue to do everything within our power to stay on top of situations like this in an unyielding, 24/7/365 commitment to keeping each and every one of our students secure and safe.
James A. Crisfield
James A. Crisfield, Ed.D.
We are told that this student has been arrested and is being detained. We will keep you updated as we find out more details.