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Police presence increased at two Harford high schools following suspected social media 'threat'

Police investigated social media chatter about a possible threat to Harford Technical High School in Bel Air Wednesday, but determined there was no credibility and the original post apparently was misconstrued by people who passed it on, a Sheriff's Office spokesperson said.
Police investigated social media chatter about a possible threat to Harford Technical High School in Bel Air Wednesday, but determined there was no credibility and the original post apparently was misconstrued by people who passed it on, a Sheriff's Office spokesperson said. (ERIKA BUTLER/THE AEGIS / BSMG)

Police officers were deployed to Harford Technical High School near Bel Air and at North Harford High School in Pylesville Wednesday morning, following reports of a possible threat , the Harford County Sheriff’s Office said.

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Word of the possible threat was spread on social media. As the social media posts continued, interpretation of just which school was targeted was misconstrued, Cristie Kahler, director of media relations for the Sheriff’s Office, said.

Harford Tech was the first school the social media posts mentioned as the target of a possible threat, but the posts later included North Harford High School, she said.

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Harford County Public Schools sent out an automated call around 9:15 a.m. Wednesday informing parents of the possible threat and cautioning about the misuse of social media.

“We need your help to stem the spread of unfounded rumors by talking with your child about responsible social media use as rumors originate and perpetuate in that forum and can cause undue stress on the school community,” Jillian Lader, manager of communications for the school system, said in the message. She could not be reached for additional comment.

The nature of the supposed threat, or why it was perceived as such, was unclear, Kahler said.

“We are getting third- and fourth-hand information,” Kahler said.

Everything appeared normal outside of North Harford High School Wednesday morning after police investigated social media chatter about a possible threat against the school that proved to be unfounded, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Everything appeared normal outside of North Harford High School Wednesday morning after police investigated social media chatter about a possible threat against the school that proved to be unfounded, according to the Sheriff's Office. (MATT BUTTON/THE AEGIS / BSMG)

The Sheriff’s Office was notified Tuesday evening of a possible threat made by a student against Harford Tech, according to a post on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page Tuesday night.

Deputies have interviewed the student who allegedly posted the statements, which were thought to be suspicious including by the student’s family, but nothing written was determined to be credible, Kahler said.

“Based on investigative information, the young man who the threats were attributed to made no statements of suspicion or direct threats,” Kahler said.

The investigation originated at Harford Tech where the student in question attends school, Kahler said.

The possible threat to North Harford could have been a reiteration of the initial comments others posted on social media, she said.

“It continued to spin up on social media,” Kahler said.

Simply sharing something on social media does not help an investigation, Kahler said.

Out of “an abundance of caution,” the Sheriff’s Office posted additional deputies at North Harford High and Harford Tech Wednesday morning. As time permitted, patrol deputies would also make additional checks at other schools throughout the day, according to Kahler.

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One police vehicle was parked at North Harford shortly before noon. Each of Harford’s public high schools has a police officer assigned to it during the school day.

Two additional Bel Air Police Department officers were also stationed at the front and rear of Bel Air High School Wednesday morning, school resource officer Richard Krause, of the BAPD, said.

“We want to have people see we are paying attention and we know what’s going on,” Krause said.

The Sheriff’s Office’s Kahler urged students to continue to follow the “if they see something, say something” rule.

If they are suspicious of comments or activities, students should report them immediately to a school resource officer or school administrator so an investigation can begin immediately, Kahler said.

“It’s important to tell someone at the time you hear it before it has time to evolve into something else and hinders the investigation,” Kahler said.

“We thank everyone who called in information and encourage community members to continue to follow the advice of ‘see something say something,’ ” the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

The Harford incidents come nearly a week after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz allegedy shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

The Harford school system reiterated its commitment to safety.

“School safety is our utmost priority, and the members of the administrative teams and security staff will continue to be vigilant and maintaining the safety of Harford County Public Schools,” Lader said in the automated message.

The school system also warned about the misuse of social media, which could result in school discipline and serious legal consequences.

“Under no circumstances will Harford County Public Schools tolerate anyone creating a climate of fear for our students, families and staff,” the message said. “Together we can help keep our schools a safe and comfortable learning environment for our children.”

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