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Several WNY school districts announce closure due to threats of violence

Gowanda, Southwestern & Pine Valley School Districts announced closures due to threats of violence trending on social media. Gowanda said 2 juveniles were arrested.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Several schools in Western New York are closed Friday due to threats of violence trending on social media.

Pine Valley Central School District posted on their Facebook page that all schools will be closed on Friday after receiving a threat this morning. The district made the decision to close out of an abundance of caution and to give time for officials to investigate. 2 On Your Side called the superintendent's office to get more information, and as of late Friday afternoon, had not heard back.

Gowanda Central School District is closed Friday due to reports of threats of violence trending on social media, according to a post on the district's website.

In a statement issued Friday afternoon, the Gowanda school district said two students had been arrested following a Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department investigation.

"The investigation concluded the photographs were altered via Photoshop, and no weapon was ever present on the bus," the district said.

"However, the investigation also ended with two juveniles being charged with making terrorist threats with pending school discipline. At this time, the situation has been resolved, and the physical safety of Gowanda students and staff is not at risk."

Southwestern Central School District also announced they would be closed Friday due to a threat. The district released this statement Friday following their investigation:

At approximately 10:00 pm last night (Dec. 16, 2021) the Southwestern Central School District’s administration received a report of a potential threat regarding an individual student. Immediately upon notice, the Ellicott Police Department was notified. In addition, the NY State Police, Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department, and Lakewood-Busti Police Department provided immediate assistance.

The Southwestern School administration assisted in the investigation regarding the student. At this time no further comment will be made regarding a confidential student matter. The Southwestern district made the decision to close school today (Dec. 17, 2021) out of an abundance of caution. We are thankful for the immediate and proactive response of our local law enforcement.

West Middle School in West Seneca sheltered in place Friday after a report came in about a student having a weapon. The district says police investigated and they figured out there was no credible threat to the school. Classes continued as police kept a close eye on the school.

And Thursday night, a Grand Island parent told the superintendent about a social media threat that appeared to be directed at Grand Island High School being spread on SnapChat and/or TikTok. Police were able to figure out that post came from Florida, and the person responsible posed no threat and is in custody. The district decided to have additional police around Friday.

There was also a threat made against Niagara Falls High School. The superintendent says they identified the source of where that picture came, and the FBI is looking for the person who posted it.

2 On Your Side talked with administrators earlier this month about how they make the decision to keep staff and students home.

"We have three crime analysis centers that are very good at getting to the root cause of these social media threats and then tracking down the perpetrators for some type of action on the police side. So I think that's cut it down quite a bit, but it certainly helps the school districts to make better judgments on whether they should close down," Bryan DalPorto of Niagara Falls City Schools said.

"It's a felony charge. It actually falls under terrorism charges if you're disrupting the school and making terroristic threats, which shutting down a school obviously is a big disruption to the community, so yeah, there's some serious consequences."

Posts have been circulating on the popular social media app TikTok warning of shooting and bomb threats at schools around the country Friday. The posts circulating online warned that multiple schools would receive shooting and bomb threats.

TikTok said it was working with law enforcement to investigate. The posts follow a disturbing trend that has had students acting out in response to social media challenges. 

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