Violent threat made on social media against Queens schools raises alarm, but deemed unfounded

Bayside High School
File photo

With parents, children and educators still on edge following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting last month, an online threat of violence made against several Queens public schools raised a new round of concerns.

Parents at Bayside High School and M.S. 158 in Bayside were notified on March 2 about the threat, which had apparently been circulated through Snapchat to students at more than 20 public schools across the city.

“This morning, students reported to school staff an image being shared through social media which indicated a possible threat at an undisclosed school for March 5, 2018,” M.S. 158 Principal Hank Schandel wrote in a March 2 letter to parents and staff. “NYPD was contacted immediately, and after conducting an investigation, NYPD determined it was not a threat to M.S. 158.”

An apparent photo of the threat was posted on an Ozone Park Facebook group page by a parent of a John Adams High School student. The threat, scribbled in ink on a desk, says, “I’m going to shoot up the school March 5, Monday, at 12:27 p.m. Save yourself.” It doesn’t indicate which school is the intended target.

In his note to parents, Bayside High School Principal Michael Athy said he also learned of the threat during a principals’ meeting on Friday.

“We are as concerned about the fear-mongering and rumor-spreading as we are about the actual writing on the desk,” Athy wrote. “Please try to be more evaluative of what you see in media, social media and what you may hear from ‘friends.'”

Despite the online threat, all New York City public schools opened as scheduled on Monday. An NYPD spokesperson told QNS that “the investigation into these incidents is ongoing and active.”

On Monday afternoon, a Department of Education spokesperson said that the “thoroughly investigated the threat and determined it was not credible.”

“Safety is our top priority, and we are providing additional security to support the school communities,” the spokesperson added.

As for school security, more than 5,300 school safety officers are assigned to the city’s 1,400 public schools, according to the NYPD. Each precinct’s neighborhood community officers (NCOs) also work in partnership with local public schools to keep them safe.

One parent we spoke to was grateful that the threat was proven unfounded, but was pleased that someone saw something and said something.

“Thank God this was an unfounded threat, but kudos to whoever brought it to the forefront,” the parent said. “We can never be too careful.”