Ominous Snapchat Post Sparks Discussions in Royal Oak Schools…

Ominous Snapchat Post Sparks Discussions in Royal Oak Schools Over Releasing Information

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Feb. 22, 2018)

Royal Oak, MI –  Just days before the school shooting in Parkland Florida, a Royal Oak High School student posted a slideshow on Snapchat, which is now the subject of discussion in the community about when parents should be notified of potential dangers.

The slideshow post became public after the Feb. 14 shootings, though it was made and reported to officials earlier that week.

Slide one showed two folding knives with their blades extended lying on a camouflage blanket.  “First pocket knife, most recent pocket knife,” the caption said, followed by a laughing emoji.

The next slide, heavy khaki boots and the caption “Some people I swear to God.”

In the next the boots were on and the caption said “I guess that’s why they say everything goes wrong before it goes right. I’ll just take that as a positive sign.”

The next is an image of the song “One Step Closer” by Linkin Park, and the caption “You know who you are.”

Next is another shot of a boot and the camouflage blanket. “I think I’ve made the decision,” said the caption.

Then two pictures of an army hat and lastly the caption “Starting Monday morning at ROHS, a little lesson on how not to piss people off… who wants first”

The message worried students, who contacted school administration, who worked with the police to investigate and remove the student from the school.

Yet the incident sparked discussions that are similar to those happening around the country.  With teenage interactions taking place digitally and social media being fertile grounds for both information and speculation, parents and school administrators have new territory to navigate. Fueling the emotions of all involved are the fears felt nationwide in the wake of increased school violence and death.

Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick would not confirm if the Snapchat occurred, but she said that in all cases of potential threats the school district “works closely with the Royal Oak Police Department to investigate.”

“We deal with this kind of thing every day in schools,” Fitzpatrick said when asked why parents were not notified.  “If we think there is a credible threat, we communicate that to parents.”

As far as other potential threats, like the one last week, Fitzpatrick asks for trust.  “I’ve been doing this over 30 years,” she said.  “I’m a parent.  I have two children.  I worry about what will happen too… We have to have a trusting relationship… We will share information that is necessary.”

She gave the example of a recent “stranger danger” incident where a student was approached by a man in a vehicle in Madison Heights.  “That was not even in Royal Oak, but we wanted parents to be alert.”

Following parent reaction to the Snapchat message, Royal Oak Schools released a statement that said, in part “You may have been seeing social media posts or hearing from other students and parents, that there have been threats against ROHS.  There are currently no known threats to ROHS….

“Parents, educators, administrators and students all have one thing in common right now: we all want the school to remain a safe place… I urge you not to lose sight of how hypersensitivity can fuel damaging speculation.  If you have specific information to report regarding a safety concern, please contact the school administration and/or the Royal Oak Police Department.”

“At any time we believe our student safety is at risk or there is a real threat, we act,” she said.

Royal Oak Police Lt. Spencer said that the social media posts he was aware of didn’t involve any threats, but that when they were brought to police attention they were investigated.

He said that reporting potential problems is important.  “If there is any concern they should contact the police department, or use the OK2Say app. There are multiple channels to report to us.”

Both Fitzgerald and Spencer talked about the challenges of technology.  “They [students] believe that it’s instant, that they can post something online and it disappears,” Fitzgerald said.  “We talk to kids about permanence of what they post.”

Spencer said that people need to know “there are criminal consequences to statuses that are made online,” and “we do take every report seriously.”

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