VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – In the month following the shooting in Parkland, Fla., police in Virginia Beach investigated 44 threats at 24 schools. Now, the city’s top prosecutor is warning students ahead of a new school year that their words could have serious consequences.
Colin Stolle, commonwealth’s attorney, says most of the threats were made via social media. Instagram and Snapchat were the most popular sites used, he says.
“If you make a school threat, you are going to get into trouble,” said Stolle. “You have no legal expectation of privacy. You post something and it shows up at other people’s feet.”
Posts can be shared, reposted and retweeted, which Stolle says can invoke fear far and wide. He says parents have a “duty” to monitor their children’s social media posts and understand how different apps work.
“One of the biggest things that parents need to understand is that their children do not have a right to privacy from them,” Stolle said. “Parents have the ability to demand their child’s phone or tablet at any point in time and make them open it up and show them exactly who they are talking to [and] what apps they are using.”
Brian Callahan, chief education officer at WHRO, compares the internet to the Wild West.
That’s why the organization, which is supported by the 19 public school districts in greater Hampton Roads, worked with local educators and subject experts to develop a “Digital Citizenship” course that teaches online communication and safety.
“Parents love it, because a lot of parents these days didn’t grow up with this technology. They don’t know how to use the i nternet in a safe and effective manner,” said Callahan.
“Digital Citizenship,” which is free and available to the public online, teaches students to report any threats or suspicious behavior.
“We would all rather look into something and have it not be a big deal, rather than not have taken the time to communicate and a tragedy take place,” said Stolle.