A 15-year-old sophomore at River Hill High School posted a death threat targeting schools Superintendent Michael Martirano, Howard County police confirmed Tuesday afternoon.

Kathryn McKinley, River Hill’s principal, wrote in an email to the school’s community Tuesday morning that a student had made “a very serious and direct threat” on social media toward a Howard County school system official relating to the ongoing redistricting process.


“This morning, I received information about a social media threat which involved one of our students. The threat was not directed at our school, nor was it directed at any individual in our school community. However, the message included a very serious and direct threat to a school system official,” McKinley wrote in the email.

The student and the school system official were not named in the email.

McKinley and River Hill administration, county police, school system central office staff, and the Office of School Safety and Security launched an immediate investigation and have met with the student and the parents “to discuss this concern and next steps.”

The threat was posted on TikTok, a popular video app, “a couple of weeks ago, [and] it has since been deleted,” Lori Boone, a police spokeswoman, said in an email.

Through investigation, police have determined it is not a legitimate threat but rather “was made as a ‘joke’ by the student.”

“It’s important to note though that charges are still possible,” Boone said.

McKinley wrote that an unnamed school was also mentioned in the threat.

“The social media post, related to the ongoing boundary review process, also included comments mentioning another Howard County high school,” McKinley wrote. “I want to remind our school community that HCPSS is a school system and not a system of individual schools. Regardless of the outcome of this process, every child in Howard County will continue to receive a high level of instruction and support.”

Martirano presented a recommendation plan last month for comprehensive redistricting. With redistricting, Martirano looks to combat school overcrowding, address inequities in the distribution of students affected by poverty and establish a road map for the eventual opening of the county’s 13th high school.

In his proposal, Martirano recommends moving nearly 7,400 students to different schools for the 2020-21 academic year.

McKinley asked for parents to take this opportunity to discuss the responsible use of social media with their child.

“As community members, we all have a responsibility to maintain a climate of civility ... threats of any kind should never be tolerated,” McKinley wrote.

The Howard Board of Education is hosting its first public hearing about the redistricting proposal Tuesday night at the school board headquarters in Ellicott City.

Howard police said they will be attendance at the hearing as officers normally attend events that are likely to have a large audience.