SMITHERS, W.Va. — The Fayette County Sheriff’s Department and Board of Education are looking into what were deemed as “threatening and inappropriate” Snapchat messages over the weekend.
As a result, both Valley High School and nearby Valley Elementary School were closed Monday. Fayette County Sheriff Mike Fridley explained on MetroNews affiliate WJLS’s “Radio Roundtable” that the investigation began Friday.
A female juvenile made a threatening post on Snapchat directed toward Valley High School. The post was quickly reported to authorities and it was deleted shortly after. She has been identified and charges are pending.
On Sunday, two other juveniles took a picture of the post and started a new threat. Sheriff Fridley explained the public’s approach to handling this post was very different.
“People didn’t really reach out to law enforcement. It just went through social media and then I started getting calls and other agencies started getting calls. So we started investigating it.”
Deputies were eventually able to identify the two individuals that made the second threat.
“We had to go backward from all of these posts all over. Working with Snapchat and working with Facebook we were able to identify the two individuals that actually posted the second posting. Now they are pending charges.”
The Fayette County Board of Education released a statement late Sunday addressing the threats:
“Fayette County Schools have been made aware of inappropriate threatening Snapchat messages that have been circulating through social media. Fayette County Schools are working with law enforcement and precautions have been taken at all schools involved. Fayette County Schools are receiving assistance from the Fayette County Sheriff, WV State Police, local law enforcement and the Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney to assure a safe environment for all the students of Fayette County.”
Sheriff Fridley said he constantly reminds the public to report any and all suspicious or threatening behavior they see online to local law enforcement immediately.
“We don’t take these things lightly. With what happened in Florida it was a tragedy and it’s just awful that kids thrive off of this. We’re going to take every threat serious(ly) and we’re going to find out who they are and they will be punished.”
In neighboring Raleigh County, a Facebook threat placed one school on “high alert” Monday. The Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department said Shady Spring High School’s resource officer was notified of a potentially threatening Facebook post by a student.
After an investigation, they discovered the student was attending classes off-campus at the Academy of Careers and Technology in Beckley. A statement from the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department indicates why authorities did not deem it necessary to close the school Monday.
“This post, while obviously upsetting and inciting to already high emotion, was determined to be non-criminal. The student was referred to appropriate resources. The Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office takes any potential threat to students, faculty, or school facilities very seriously. We work closely with the Board of Education and school administrators in this capacity.”
All schools are scheduled to resume normal operations Tuesday.