MOUNT VERNON — Social media platforms such as Facebook make staying in touch quick and easy, but they also serve as a ubiquitous outlet for bullying and threats.
The News has learned of a situation where threats of serious violence against a Mount Vernon High School student have been made on Facebook by a Knox County Career Center student. Other MVHS students are taking the threat seriously and want to protect their schoolmate.
School authorities and the involved students’ parents have been informed of the situation, said Mount Vernon superintendent Steve Short.
“We do get notifications a lot of times of what takes place on Facebook from our students,” said Short. “We’ve investigated [this particular situation]. We are working with different agencies including the police. We deal with Facebook messages, Facebook things every day. We have notified the proper authorities. We are working with different authorities and all the people who are involved to make sure our students are safe.”
Chip McConville, assistant county prosecutor, said those types of things are reported to his office from time to time.
“If somebody thinks it’s serious, they ought to take it to the police,” he said. “If there’s a threat, that’s something that can be taken to the police. School administrators are not the Facebook police, nor should they be made to be. We shouldn’t have school resources put into this unless there’s some kind of threat that violence is going to occur at school.”
Detective Jeff Jacobs of the Mount Vernon Police Department, without revealing specifics, said incidents such as the one mentioned above are investigated the same as any other case of telecommunications harassment.
“The hard part, of course, with any of the social networking,” he said, “is pinpointing the person who is claiming to have done it. You have to go back and go through IP addresses and Facebook and actually be able to prove that person was the actual perpetrator and on the computer at that time. Someone could have used someone else’s computer, or hacked into it, or someone could be pretending to be someone else. You have to prove who actually did it. It’s not like you talked to them on the phone so you recognize their voice. Normally telecommunications harassment would be a misdemeanor, but if the content is a threat which could be classified a hate crime, it would be stepped up to a felony.”