OAK GROVE, Mo. — Parents of Oak Grove Middle School students received a notification on Thursday that a student posted an “inappropriate and alarming” message to Snapchat about the tragic Florida high school shooting earlier this week.
While details of the message remained secret, school staff said it was posted before classes started on Thursday.
The assistant principal told 41 Action News that the student, whose name was being withheld, was “disciplined” according to school policy.
“They were commenting about what had happened in Florida. There was no specific threat to anyone,” explained Assistant Principal Tom Huffington. “We had a student that saw this post. They reported it to their parent. Their parent reported it to us."
The Oak Grove incident occurred the same day as more details came out about the shooter that killed 17 students at a Florida high school on Wednesday.
Investigators said a comment left by a YouTube user with the same name as the Florida suspect dealt with plans to carry out a shooting at a school.
Following the tragedy in Florida, Huffington said school security was on many people’s minds on Thursday.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn't scary,” he explained. “You come to school and worry about those things."
While Oak Grove Middle School holds seminars dealing with bullying and cyber security for all students and offers counseling groups for students with social issues, the assistant principal said it can be difficult monitoring concerning social media posts.
“The reality is it's extremely difficult trying to determine what is school domain and what is not school domain,” he explained. “Students sometimes get behind a keyboard or phone and I don't think they appreciate some of the things they want to post."
Monitoring social media sites for concerning posts can be a challenge and determining if one is a joke or a serious matter can be another issue.
“When you're just talking about free speech, as disturbing as it is, there's nothing the police or FBI can really do,” explained former FBI agent Michael Tabman. “We can't monitor one individual that pops up with us constantly unless there's a specific reason to."
Tabman told 41 Action News that police often have to pick and choose which concerning social media posts to investigate.
“They can't chase down every troubling YouTube or Facebook post,” he explained. “They have to look at what appears to be the most threatening and even then they might be up against roadblocks."
After the deadly shooting in Florida, Assistant Principal Tom Huffington said communication was key to preventing tragedy in the future.
“I think the most important thing is for students to step up and say something,” he explained. “The big thing is talk to your students. Talk to your children and monitor what they do."
Huffington sent the below letter to parents notifying them of the incident:
This morning before school a parent notified OGMS administration of a Snapchat message that was posted regarding the school tragedy in Florida. The post was inappropriate and alarming to OGMS administration. OGMS administration immediately located the student in question and conducted an investigation. Classes had not started.
The message in the post was taken very seriously, and the student has been disciplined within our district discipline policy. The Oak Grove Police Department was also involved. We consider the safety of our students a top priority. We are grateful that a parent reported this immediately. If you have any questions regarding this incident you can contact OGMS at 690-4154.