Social media threats at schools were hoaxes, officials say

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Multiple school districts across at least Central New York — including Camden, Oneida and Vernon-Verona-Sherrill — investigated social media threats this weekend and found them to be hoaxes.

No local schools are believed to be in any danger, according to law enforcement officials.

The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office said on Sunday that they investigated a threat of violence at the Camden Central School District. Authorities said the threat was sent via social media, and the name on the account was not a student in Camden schools. Similar threats were received at the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill and the Oneida school districts.

Sheriff’s officials said no students or faculty are believed to be in any danger. The investigation remains ongoing and there will be an increase in patrols both in and around the schools that received threats.

“Heightened security procedures have been in place throughout the day as precautionary measures and peace of mind for our students, staff members and parents,” said Dr. Ravo Root, superintendent of Camden schools, in a release.

“The safety of our Camden staff and students remains our number one priority.”

Authorities said the threats were traced back to a 12-year-old in the Schenectady School District in Schenectady County, north of Albany. Similar threats were made to Schenectady schools.

According to the Schenectady Police Department, the threat “has been deemed that it is not a credible threat and it was intended to be a prank.”

Officials said the suspect is a juvenile and their identity was not released. Authorities said the juvenile created a fake social media account and took a pre-existing threat template, then modified it to directly reference a Schenectady school.

“This is becoming a trend nationwide in other school districts,” Schenectady Police stated.

The same template appears to have then been altered again to specifically reference schools in Oneida, Camden and Verona.

Oneida Police Chief John Little said his agency learned of the threats in Schenectady on Saturday.

By coincidence, the City of Schenectady has a school named “Oneida Middle School”, and that school was targeted in the threats. Chief Little said his office reached out to the Oneida City School District as a precaution.

“It just ballooned on Sunday,” Little explained, and more school districts began to receive the similar threats, including the Oneida district’s Shortell Middle School in Wampsville.

“It seems specific, but that specific threat is being sent all over the place,” Little stated.

The chief said the threats were all ruled non-credible. He said his agency, and many others, will be providing additional law enforcement coverage to local schools as a precaution.

“It’s being taken seriously,” Little said.

The Madison County Sheriff’s Office is also investigating the school threats, Little said, along with many other agencies on the local, state and federal levels.

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