Several students in the U.S. have threatened copycat violence in the wake of last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — even in the same Florida school district.
The Broward County sheriff’s office arrested a 13-year-old girl on Tuesday after she posted on Instagram about wanting to carry out an attack at her middle school this week. The middle school, Central Charter School, is just 10 miles away from Stoneman Douglas and part of the same district, Broward County Public Schools.
The incident at Central Charter School is hardly isolated, though. Police have already made at least a dozen arrests related to copycat threats in the wake of the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas that left 17 dead.
A high school student in Arkansas was arrested last Thursday for threatening to "shoot up the high school like they did in Florida" on Snapchat. At least five students in the New York City area and four students in Indiana have been arrested for making similar threats. And a South Carolina high school student was arrested last week after he posted an image of himself with an assault rifle and the message “Florida Round 2 tomorrow” on Snapchat.
The 13-year-old at Central Charter School is being charged with felony intimidation. Her arrest comes just two days after the same sheriff’s office arrested a 15-year-old boy for making a similar threat against several Broward schools, although he later claimed it was a joke.
Research suggests copycat threats will likely continue with regularity for another week. Up to 22 percent of school shootings — and 30 percent of mass killings generally — can be traced back to an original incident within the previous 13 days, according to a 2015 study by researchers at Arizona State University and Northeastern Illinois University. The 13-day stretch is known as the “contagion” period when the U.S. is most vulnerable to copycat threats.
"What we believe may be happening is national news media attention is like a 'vector' that reaches people who are vulnerable," Sherry Towers, lead author of the study, told CNN.
Going forward, the Broward County sheriff’s office is using social media to warn potential copycats that their threats will be investigated and that they will be prosecuted.
“We're taking threats of intimidation seriously,” the sheriff’s office tweeted on Tuesday. The district hopes to resume classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Tuesday, Feb. 27.
Cover image, left to right: Tatana Hobson, 14, Annia Hobson, 13, and Leilany Canate, 16, mourn in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. A gunman entered the school last Wednesday and killed 17 students and teachers. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald via AP)