BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — Parents dropping off their children at schools throughout Palm Beach County this morning may have noticed heavily armed police. The offputting sight was in response to a nationwide social media threat claiming that clowns — yes clowns — will attack schools.
The latest round of threats involved Palm Beach County Schools which school officials are now calling “unsubstantiated.”
From the Palm Beach County School District:
School District Police detectives are investigating a series of social media threats made to Palm Beach County schools. The threats, which feature scary clowns, are hoaxes that have been received by schools and districts across the country.
Several threats were posted on Instagram and other social media applications on Monday evening. The first series of threats including pictures of specific schools, and a more general threat was posted against all School District schools.
Similar threats have been made in recent weeks to schools around the country, including Austin, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia and St. Louis. On Monday, school districts in New Jersey and Virginia also received unsubstantiated threats through social media.
“Our detectives are actively investigating these threats, and once we find the person or people behind them, they will face criminal charges,” said School District Police Chief Lawrence Leon. “We know this is a hoax, but we take it very seriously, and will arrest those people responsible.”
School Police worked closely with local and federal law enforcement on a series of unsubstantiated threats to Palm Beach County schools during the 2015-16 school year. That investigation led to the arrest of Preston McWaters, who pled guilty to federal charges and now faces up to 30 years in prison for those threats.
Parents at the five schools named in the initial threats received a call from Chief Leon, notifying them of the threats and the School Police investigation. Information was also shared on the District’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
School Police and local law enforcement provided additional security at campuses in response to the threats, and have notified all local law enforcement agencies to request additional patrols around schools.
“We know these threats are a hoax, but understand that many students, staff and teachers are understandably nervous about what they’re seeing on social media,” said Superintendent Robert Avossa. “I want to thank School District Police and our local law enforcement partners for helping to create a sense of calm and security on our campuses, and for investigating these threats to ensure those responsible are held accountable for their reckless actions.”