CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC)– Some parents across Central Virginia have been notified about an Instagram post that is being shared among students in different school districts promoting a ‘school riot’ tomorrow.
The flyer encourages a ‘riot’ on Friday, Dec. 10, during third period which is directed at “all schools.”
A number of other Chesterfield school principals have called home and written letters to families, including those at Bird, James River and Cosby High Schools.
Monacan High School Principal William Broyles also alerted parents about the post.
“Disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. Students can be arrested and suspended or expelled from school for incidents that cause disruption to the school day,” Boyles said in a voice message.
Adrienne Blanton is the Principal of Bird High School. Blanton also wrote a note to parents.
“Parents, I want to let you know that police were alerted to increasing social media chatter surrounding mention of potential violence at our school,” Blanton said in her letter. “We believe that there is no credible threat. Out of an abundance of caution, an additional police presence has been requested at our school today while police continue their investigation.”
Tatia Bellamy-Vaughan, a Chesterfield County resident and whose son attends Thomas Dale High School, told 8News, she was “angry” about the post and is concerned about the communication.
“I think we need to take it seriously,” Bellamy-Vaughan said.
School systems have been working with law enforcement to investigate the flyer. According to the Chesterfield Police Department, these posts have been circulating throughout the state. However, the department stresses, it’s not credible.
“Police are investigating, but to this point, we have found no evidence to suggest these posts are credible. Police are aware of and are monitoring this situation. We are ready to respond as needed,” said Elizabeth Caroon with Chesterfield Police.
Meanwhile, Brunswick County Public Schools Superintendent Kristy Somerville-Midgette informed families that the school system will be adding an increased police presence at J.S. Russell Middle School tomorrow.
“This image does not refer specifically to Brunswick County Public Schools. It appears to be a post that is being shared widely, perhaps across the country. Still, we are taking this situation seriously,” Somerville-Midgette said.
8News spoke with several school systems in the area to ask how they plan to combat social media threats.
According to Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin, who is the Superintendent for Petersburg City Public Schools, the school system is aware of the rise in these kinds of threats in the district, state and in the nation. Pitre-Martin said the school system experienced a similar incident in October.
“We want to ensure that this is not tolerated,” said Pitre-Martin.
She said the school system has worked with the Petersburg City Police Department this year and will continue this partnership.
A spokesperson with Henrico County Public Schools said schools typically see an ‘uptick’ in these kinds of threats after a tragic incident that takes place in a school in our country. The district said that it focuses on education and encourages parents to partner with school officials and talk with their children.
Chesterfield County Public Schools took a similar approach. The school system said principals sent messages home to not only let families know, but to also warn of the serious financial penalties or consequences that students could face due to any potential disruption.
Shedrick McCall is a psychologist for the Chesterfield Collaborative for Equal Justice (CCEJ). According to McCall, the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely left a negative impact on children as they were away from school for a time period. He said children are dealing with depression and manifesting these feelings through anger.
“A lot of kids have not sought out professional help and they’re using social media as an outlet,” McCall said.
McCall said he believes school systems need more mental health counselors.