Editorial: Students bravely report social media threat

A scene of terror erupted in a central Illinois high school last week when a male student began firing a gun before a teacher managed to subdue him, preventing any casualties. A week earlier in Washington, a student opened fire in a high school hallway, killing a classmate and wounding three others.

In May, a 20-year-old student was shot and killed on campus at North Lake College in Texas.

School shootings occur with such frequency that they hardly register as national news any more. More than 220 shootings have occurred on school campuses since the unimaginable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 that left 26 people dead, including 20 children, according to data compiled by the Los Angeles Times. (That data included incidents like suicides, misfires or other activity.)

We live in a world where any threat, however vague or innocuous, must be taken seriously. We’ve seen too many horrifying scenes unfold around the country to think otherwise.

When a Snapchat post began circulating late Sunday from a Riverhead High School teen that purportedly pictured a gun with threatening text, students and parents quickly and smartly acted. Riverhead Town police were alerted and officers arrested the teen before school began the next morning. The boy, whose name was not released due to his age, was charged with one count of making a terroristic threat. That may sound like an awfully serious charge for what we can only hope was an ill-advised joke. But the seriousness of that type of threat is no laughing matter.

One parent of a Riverhead student who’s currently in Virginia received a frightened message from her son. He was afraid to go to school the next morning. The parent didn’t hesitate to call the school and leave a detailed message in the overnight hours Sunday. She also called police, who had already been alerted to the threat by another student who viewed the social media post.

Those young teens who bravely reported what they saw deserve credit for having the sense to realize that any threat could be real.

In a statement released to parents, the new superintendent at Riverhead, Aurelia Henriquez, advised everyone to speak to their children about the responsible use of social media. It’s a message worth repeating.

One post on social media can have long-lasting impacts.

File courtesy photo: A Riverhead High School student posted this picture on Snapchat Sunday night. The student, who was not identified, was arrested before the start of school Monday.