Social Media Threats Impacting School Attendance, Budget
EDINBURG – The effects of social media threats were felt this week in one Rio Grande Valley district. A superintendent spoke about the impact fear is playing on parents and students in his district.
The Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District saw an abnormal drop in attendance this week. Some of the schools averaged half their typical attendance.
Threatening words directed at South Middle School in Edinburg led to more than 400 students missing school Friday.
“Parents are worried because we don’t know if we send our kids to school whether the threat is real or not,” said concerned parent Leopoldo Morales.
This week, Edinburg CISD was the target of three social media threats. Two were made on two middle schools, one at a high school – all through social media.
“Any kind of a threat we receive we have to act and take all the protocols and all the precautions that we need to because we take all threats seriously,” said Edinburg CISD Superintendent Rene Gutierrez.
Pictures of these threats went viral. Calls from parents, students and staff flooded the district’s administrative offices.
“It’s creating an interruption in our instructional day and our students are missing out on going to school because they’re afraid to go to school because of these threats,” said Gutierrez.
Attendance in the district took a hit the entire week. The district usually has a 90 percent plus attendance rate. This week it stood at 65 percent.
As superintendent, Gutierrez worries students are missing out on learning. Absences also affect the bottom line.
“It also impacts our budgets and it impacts the parents as well, cause parents are afraid sometimes. Afraid to send their students to school because of these threats,” said Gutierrez.
The threats are being handled by the school police department. Once identified, the students behind the messages will be suspended right off the bat.
“Nothing is a joke to us,” said the superintendent.
The district will also explore expulsion as an option. Consequences don’t stop there. The Hidalgo County district attorney made it clear, students face consequences in the judicial system.
“You know being sent off somewhere where they need help, being on some kind of probation, going to jail,” said Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez.
Gutierrez says he will continue seeking back up from local, state and federal law enforcement. He’s looking to put an end to the threats and restore a sense of peace in his schools.
The superintendent wants students, staff and parents in the district to know they are addressing all threats. He says once confirmed, that student will be taken into custody.