Local schools added extra security around their campuses Wednesday in response to a threat posted to a social media smartphone application.
The post on Yik Yak, an anonymous messaging app, warned specifically that there would be a shooting at McGill-Toolen High School, which prompted administration to add security.
“Our administration, faculty and staff have all been notified to be extra cautious, and in addition to our regular police officer and campus security, we have another police officer on duty all week,” according to a statement released by McGill-Toolen President the Rev. Bry Shields.
Mobile County Public Schools released a statement through its Facebook page to reassure parents that the affected campuses are safe and dispelled the threats as rumors.
“We have coordinated and cooperated with law enforcement in investigating the rumors today and determined them to be unfounded,” the post read.
Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich said that in addition to the specific threat, a general threat was made to four other area schools, although she declined to name them. Lagniappe readers commented through Facebook that police were stationed at St. Paul’s, UMS-Wright, Murphy and Baker.
Rich said law enforcement was taking the threat seriously and was “very close in our investigation.”
“I believe we will ultimately determine who posted this on the app,” she said.
She said that while the app is anonymous, users have to turn on location services in order to make a post.
“It tells us exactly where the post was made,” Rich said.
The suspect in the case could be facing a Class C felony for making a terrorist threat. Conviction on that charge carries one to 10 years in prison, Rich said.
Both UMS-Wright and McGill-Toolen have recently banned the use of smartphones on campus, due to apps like Yik Yak. The app has also been linked to school bullying cases.
Rich believes the app only exacerbates the bullying problem on campus.
“I think this app serves no purpose,” she said.
While Rich wants Yik Yak and other apps that allow for anonymous posting to be taken down, she said it’s important for parents to become educated on apps like Yik Yak.
The app is designed for users over 17 years old, but a user can get around that by simply pressing a button.
Updated at 5:45 p.m. Feb. 19 to include additional information about Yik Yak.
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