A student at Peter F. Alba Middle School in Bayou la Batre was arrested this week for making a terroristic threat on social media directed at the school, though administrators say they don’t believe any harm was intended.
According to Rene Philips, a spokeswoman for the Mobile County Public School System, a male student was “dared” by another student to make a post on social media that included a “picture of a weapon” and a threatening message.Though she couldn’t say exactly what was written, Philips confirmed it was directed at Alba Middle School and its students. However, Philips said after speaking with administrators, the student claimed he’d been dared to post the message by a friend as a joke.
“We don’t think he had any intention to actually hurt anyone,” Philips said. “The children at the school were never actually in any real danger, but we take any threat very seriously.”
On Friday, Bayou la Batre Police Chief Clifton Adams confirmed the student in question had been arrested and charged with making a terrorist threat in connection to the social media post — though he said investigators had yet to confirmed he’d been dared to make the threat.
Philips said she wasn’t aware of the student’s age, and because of his status as a minor, his identity will not be released. Records related to his arrest’ are also inaccessible to the public for the same reason.
After the incident, Principal Rhonda Mayfield sent out a call to parents to inform them about the situation and to ask that they speak with their children about the consequences of making threats on social media — even if they’re intended as a joke.
“The message encouraged parents talk to their children about not making these types of threats because the police take any threat very seriously, and so do we,” Philips added.
MCPSS has also been dealing with another incident intensified by social media recently, after a cellphone video of a Semmes Middle School student being bullied last month went viral online.
Since it was originally posted, the video showing 13-year-old Drew Breton being verbally and physically harassed at school on Nov. 4 has been shared millions of times and has prompted messages of support for Breton from celebrities like heavyweight champion boxer Roy Jones Jr.
Locally, the video prompted a small protest by parents and the MCPSS central office last week. Semmes Middle School Principal Brenda Shenesey has been placed on administrative leave while the school system and the Mobile County District Attorney’s office conduct investigations into the incident.
Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator Nate Smith and John Powell, an MCPSS personnel administrator, will serve as acting principals until the investigations are completed.