SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – School districts across the nation are seeing an uptick in ‘copycat threats’ following the deadly school shooting in Michigan that left four dead and several others wounded last week. One of the latest threats in the Tampa Bay region led to an arrest.
A report from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office shows a 15-year-old Sarasota High School student was arrested last Friday after allegedly making threats on social media. The report says the teen admitted to making the threats when speaking with authorities.
Sarasota High School’s assistant principal sent a message to parents, students, and staff Friday alerting them of the situation.
“Our amazing students did exactly the right thing after receiving the information … they reported it to us. Our school resource officer along with the Sarasota Police Department and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office responded immediately. They located the student and took action so that there is no threat against our school, students, or staff. The student has been arrested,” said Sarasota High School AP Becky Moyer.
Moyer went on to send this message to students.
“I want to take this time to remind our students that posting threatening messages on social media – no matter how harmless they may seem to be – can have serious consequences. Our school district has a zero-tolerance policy and any student making a threat will be investigated by law enforcement and possibly arrested or removed from school,” said the assistant principal in the automated message.
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office took over the investigation after authorities determined the threats were made off-campus.
According to the report, the 15-year-old student wasn’t at school Friday. The report says he was at the gym ‘Snapchatting’ 20-30 friends that were in school that day. Deputies say someone was teasing the teen for not being in school. In response, the 15-year-old wrote, “Do you want me to shoot up the school on Monday?” The report shows he then stated, “I’m leaving rn [right now] before the cops search my bag”.
Later in the conversation, the sheriff’s office report shows the student wrote messages about getting an M4, sitting in a car, and having ‘some fun’.
Deputies say several students took screenshots of the conversation. Another student then relayed the information to her mother who is an employee at the high school.
The 15-year-old is charged with sending written or electronic threats to kill, do bodily injury, or conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism.
“Any students that make any social media threats, our policy is that we are going to investigate them to the very end because it is something that we take very seriously here,” said district police Chief Timothy Enos. “It is not funny. It is nothing that can be left off as a joke because it affects a lot of people when you make threats like that,” he explained.