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Wednesday, November 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Threat targeting Deer Park High School students was overblown, stemmed from ‘trash-talking’ on Snapchat, sheriff’s office says

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 16, 2019

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office says rumors of a violent threat targeting Deer Park High School were exaggerated and stemmed from an argument involving multiple students on Snapchat.

The Deer Park School District said Tuesday that authorities were investigating a threat targeting “a small and specific group of students,” adding that the threat was not considered “real” or “credible.”

Principal Joe Feist notified families of high school students about the situation in a phone message on Tuesday. There was a heightened law enforcement presence at the school on Wednesday, and some students stayed home because of the rumors.

On the Spokane forum on the website Reddit, one user wrote that an “anonymous student” had threatened to “shoot up” the school.

In a news release Wednesday, however, the sheriff’s office said three students were “merely trash-talking” each other about who was better at basketball. The group conversation on Snapchat, which started on Monday, involved students from Deer Park and North Central High School.

“As several others were brought in or joined the group chat, it escalated and became more personally confrontational with people talking about fighting and about beating each other up,” the sheriff’s office said. “As people began texting and spreading information regarding the Snapchat argument, the rumors began to build, with the story becoming exaggerated.”

The sheriff’s office began investigating around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday after several parents reported that their children had heard of threats being circulated. The sheriff’s office also notified the Spokane Police Department.

Deputies interviewed several students, including the ones involved in the initial “trash-talking,” and found that none of them genuinely felt threatened, the sheriff’s office said. Because messages on Snapchat are automatically deleted after brief periods, deputies could not read the full conversation, though they were able to review some text messages.

The sheriff’s office urged parents to speak with their children and teens about social media, saying they should report threats immediately to trusted adults, school officials and law enforcement – not their peers in school.

“They should not spread rumors or what they’ve ‘heard from a friend’ to others, which only serves to spread fear and false information,” the sheriff’s office said.

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