MAINE, USA — It was a message on Snapchat, threatening to shoot up a school, that prompted the Bonny Eagle school district to cancel all classes district-wide. Portland High School also went to remote classes on Thursday even though the threat didn't mention a specific school.
"It wasn't specific to Bonny Eagle High School but that doesn't matter. When you get threats you chase them," MSAD 6 superintendent Paul Penna said.
This is the first incident of its kind making headlines this school year, but educators said social media has caused problems in schools for years.
"It's been a real uptick in it this fall with some of the stuff that's gone one with the TikTok and Snapchat," Windham High School Assistant Principal Phil Rossetti said.
He's referring to the "devious licks" trend in which students record themselves stealing items from the bathrooms at their schools. Some even ripped out toilets and other bathroom fixtures.
He added that he never knows what he's walking into in the morning because he doesn't know what may have happened on social media the night before.
"These students haven't been back together in 18 months so they're not sure how to handle being in the same setting as each other," he said.
It's been a tough few weeks for many districts, but coping with social media in schools isn't new.
"Pre-pandemic I was dealing with this as well," Rossetti said.
Rob Susi is the coordinator of school safety at the Maine Department of Education and a former school resource officer. He agreed with Rossetti that social media can cause issues in schools. He said resource officers are trained today to know that every time they deal with a confrontation involving students, it may have some sort of social media connection.
"It's [social media] a multiplier," he said. "Anything that's going on it intensifies."
Susi and Rosetti both said that as social media continues to widen its grip on young people, they expect schools will deal with more incidents like the Bonny Eagle threat
The one bright spot seems to be that some parents have gotten the message and now limit their kids' phone usage.
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