SOUTH GLENS FALLS -- The school district is urging parents to watch the comments their children leave on social networking websites, following the arrest Thursday of 16-year-old Forrest R. Taylor, a South High student who police said used Facebook to threaten to kill all the students at the school.
Saratoga County Undersheriff Mike Woodcock said the threats were not made to specific persons, but rather to all the students.
Woodcock would not reveal the type of threats that were made, but he said they were “homicidal.” Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy also would not reveal details of the threats, but said Taylor’s Facebook account has been taken down.
”No one at South High was in any jeopardy or danger,” Murphy said, in a prepared statement on the arrest released by his office.
Taylor, of 476 Fortsville Road, Gansevoort, was charged with making a terroristic threat, a felony.
The school district learned about the threats from a mother who was checking her child’s Facebook page. When she saw another person had made threats to the school, she picked up the phone.
“We were very fortunate to have a community member who acted appropriately,” said Superintendent Michael Patton.
On Friday morning, Patton said he spoke to students over the public announcement system to inform them about the arrest. A letter was also sent to parents.
Patton said the arrest is an opportunity for parents and students to learn about the importance of monitoring the comments posted on websites such as Facebook.
“It’s very important for parents and students to communicate regularly and for parents to monitor what’s on their children’s Web page,” Patton said.
Patton said the school district needs to be notified if students are threatening to harm others or themselves.
Murphy intends to seek a mental health evaluation of Taylor early next week, according to his statement.
“I believe at this time it may be helpful to be sure that he is fit to proceed before we go further,” he said.
Social networking websites and text messaging have allowed cyberbullying to flourish.
Students use these means to harass and threaten others, at times anonymously and often away from the school. But the conflicts escalate into confrontations when students return to school, forcing school employees to resolve the problem.
The state requires school districts to have a policy that shows they will not tolerate cyberbullying. The policy is part of the state’s Dignity for All Students Act, which became effective in July and lays out procedures for creating a safe school environment.
One of those procedures is for schools to intervene when students harass or threaten each other over the Internet or by text message, even if the behavior occurs off school property.
“It has become more and more prevalent,” Jenkins said of cyberbullying. “The difficult part about it is we don’t know it’s occurring until someone tells us about it.”
Damian Switzer, principal of Queensbury High School, said cyberbullying is a complex issue because it can occur away from the school, and requires parents to work with the school to address it.
“We really need parents to be on board with helping to monitor their child’s time on social networking sites,” Switzer said.
Schools each year bring in professional speakers who talk about bullying and good behavior. The danger of social networking websites is a common subject.
Patton said Taylor has been suspended for five days. A superintendent’s hearing will be scheduled to decide on any further discipline.