Facebook Threat Increases Police Presence at Dubuque Schools

by Katie Wiedemann, Reporter

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By Katie Wiedemann

DUBUQUE, Iowa - Dubuque Police provided extra patrols throughout the Dubuque School District on Thursday.That's after what police are calling a non-credible school shooting threat, posted online.

On Wednesday night, Dubuque Community Schools Superintendent Stan Rheigans had to discredit those rumors. He sent an email to parents and school staff letting them know a student had posted a non-specific threat to Facebook. The note said police didn't find anything to support the claim. Regardless police stepped up enforcement on Thursday, just to be safe.

Dubuque police say the original poster really didn't do anything illegal. but it was the following comments from other users that spiraled this thing into a threat.

Whispers in the hallway, were long the path rumors traveled through a high school. In the computer age, those whispers moved online. But now even e-mail is obsolete.

Dubuque Schools Behavioral Support Specialist Mae Hingtgen said, "Teenagers don't use email. Teenagers will communicate through Twitter and Facebook. "

With access to those websites in the palm of their hands, time is of the essence.

Hingtgen said, "something can start real small with one student and within a half hour potentially thousands of adolescents know about it."

Hingtgen says what starts as mindless chatter often escalates. Suddenly, threats are made. Credible or not, that's when police get involved.

Dubuque Police Lt. Scott Baxter said, "it generates a lot more work, a lot more man power and resources for us to devote and investigate the situation. "

Police say they have to investigate every single threat as a legitimate concern. Still, police too, walk a fine line.

"If it's just a vague statement a lot of that's protected by the 2nd amendment", said Baxter. "So we have parameters we have to operate in. We have to honor those rights. "

In light of the unthinkable happening in schools all over the country. Authorities say they'll always over-react rather than ignore anything.

"Our students safety is our top priority and if students don't feel safe, they can't learn, " said Hingtgen.

The school district does have a Facebook page and Twitter account, but they say they don't use it much. Administrators say they're working on a plan to increase their online presence so they can better communicate with students and parents.

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