Threats on social media that a student might bring a gun to Guyer High School were deemed not credible on Wednesday, Denton ISD and police spokespeople said.
The alleged threats to Guyer began circulating on social media Tuesday night, worrying some parents and students as school officials prepared to notify them.
Julie Zwahr, district spokeswoman, said she heard about the threats between 11:30 p.m. and midnight on Tuesday.
In the threat, which appears to be a post to Snapchat of which a screenshot was taken and written over at least five times by different users, is a confusing mix of warnings and questions, including expletives.
Captions cover the gamut from fear, anger, dark humor and pleas to not attend school the following day. The dizzying mix of emojis and colorful text sits atop a background that seems to depict a handgun poking out of a backpack.
Shaun Perry, principal at Guyer, addressed the social media threats circulating on Snapchat and Twitter in a tweet of his own at 11:44 Tuesday night.
He thanked people for alerting him to the problem, noted police were investigating the situation and promised an increased police presence on campus for Wednesday.
District administrators and spokespeople worked with a school resource officer and Denton police to look into the threat, and police deemed the threat non-credible just before school started Wednesday, Zwahr said.
Barry Barnes, the father of two Guyer High students, said he received an email from Perry at 8:47 a.m. — three minutes before school started.
At that point, he already had been at Guyer for a half-hour trying to figure out whether it was safe for his two children to go to school that day.
“I found the information out from my kids,” Barnes said. “That is the crux of the issue.”
He said he first saw the “social media storm” from the previous night when his kids came downstairs at 6:30 a.m.
“Think about the parents that leave and go to work early; think about the parents that drop their kid off at 8:15 and didn’t know [about the rumors],” he said.
By not keeping parents informed, Barnes said administrators “didn’t give parents the option to determine if their children should go to school that day.”
“The communications department from Denton ISD really dropped the ball, and they should be held accountable,” he said.
Despite his criticisms, Barnes said he was impressed by the openness and help of some district administrators, especially Area Superintendent Susannah O’Bara.
He said O’Bara was just inside the Guyer front door, answering all the questions she could and coordinating with others through a walkie-talkie. She followed up by phone throughout the day.
Bryan Cose, Denton police spokesman, said other school districts received the same threat. A letter from Denton ISD also said other districts received the same threat.
“The information is also circulating at other campuses in our area and is not specific to Guyer High School,” Perry said in the letter to parents.
As of Wednesday evening, Argyle, Aubrey, Krum, Pilot Point, Sanger and Lake Dallas school district officials said no threats had been directed toward their schools. An email to Ponder ISD had not yet been returned by late Wednesday.
It appears the threat originated from Worley Middle School in Mansfield ISD when a student posted the threat to social media Monday night.
“The social media post in question has since circulated and has been falsely labeled as a threat to unrelated schools,” said Hope Boyd, a Mansfield ISD spokeswoman.
Boyd declined to release the social media post she referenced, citing an ongoing criminal investigation. Without that post or a response from Mansfield police, it cannot be confirmed whether the incidents in each district are related.
On the tweet that made its way to Guyer students, one user wrote, “They finna [fixing to] air out legacy,” followed by several emojis showing laughing faces with tears streaming, which appears to be a reference to a threat at Legacy High School in Mansfield.
Administrators in Mansfield responded to the threat much in the same way officials in Denton ISD responded on Wednesday: an investigation with local police that revealed no credible threat to students.
Julia McMains, a principal at Worley Middle School, opened her letter to parents in a way that should seem familiar to Guyer parents: “We want to make you aware of a situation that unfolded late last night. A student made a social media post, which led to some concerns regarding safety here at school.”
The letter, released Tuesday, said the student responsible was taken into custody on a felony charge of making a terroristic threat.
Overnight and into Wednesday morning, some students and parents said they were worried by what some said was a slow response from Denton ISD.
“Part of the challenge here ... is we’re going for accuracy,” Zwahr said.
In addition to safety, accuracy of information has been a priority over speed of delivery, Denton ISD officials say. Such was the case with recent threats at Braswell High School.
Unlike the incident at Braswell, where threats were received and responded to in about an hour, rumors concerning Guyer had much more time to foment, but parents did not arrive at the campus en masse.
In the letter addressed to Guyer parents, Perry said, “Please use this event as a reminder to share with your children that we take all possible threats to the school and their safety seriously.”
Zwahr said nothing seems to indicate a Denton ISD student was involved in making or spreading the threats on social media Tuesday.
Around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Perry took to Facebook and posted an update addressed to the “Wildcat Family.”
It again stressed the lack of verifiable threat and push for accurate information: “Accuracy is especially important during situations when rumors and misinformation tend to take on a life of their own.”