School sys­tem warns hoaxes no laugh­ing mat­ter

‘Creepy clown’ threats can be mis­de­meanors

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­

Charles County Pub­lic Schools is warn­ing stu­dents and par­ents that “creepy clown” hoaxes and threats of school vi­o­lence are no laugh­ing mat­ter.

School sys­tem Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­berly Hill sent a let­ter home to par­ents Thurs­day evening, warn­ing that stu­dents “in­volved in spread­ing ru­mors that cause a school dis­rup­tion could face dis­ci­plinary ac­tions and/or be charged with a crim­i­nal of­fense.”

The let­ter fol­lows a week of clown-re­lated hi­jinks, be­gin­ning Mon­day with a photo cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial media sup­pos­edly de­pict­ing a “creepy clown” in the St. Charles area.

The photo was later de­ter­mined to be a fake by the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice — the re­sult of photo edit­ing. But the pic­ture ap­par­ently set off a cou­ple of hoaxes last week, the per­pe­tra­tors of which have been dis­ci­plined, ac­cord­ing to letters sent home to par­ents from the im­pacted schools.

No fur­ther in­ci­dents have been re­ported this week by school of­fi­cials.

The in­ci­dents were part of na­tion­wide re­ports of “creepy clowns,” which be­gan with un­ver­i­fied re­ports in South Carolina in August and have since spread across the coun­try and Great Bri­tain.

Last week, in Prince Ge­orge’s and Mont­gomery coun­ties, sev­eral stu­dents were ar­rested for mak­ing threats of mass vi­o­lence against schools via so­cial media. Some of the so­cial media threats pur­ported to be from clowns.

Threats of mass vi­o­lence to a school can re­sult in sus­pen­sion, ex­pul­sion or other dis­ci­plinary mea­sures, ac­cord­ing to the Code of Stu­dent Con­duct, and is a mis­de­meanor in Maryland, car­ry­ing pun­ish­ments of up to 10 years im­pris­on­ment and/or fines of up to $10,000.

“We will con­tinue to work closely with the sher­iff’s of­fice, which is also pro­vid­ing ad­di­tional sup­port to our schools to en­sure our stu­dents and staff feel safe. Again, there are no ver­i­fied or cred­i­ble threats to CCPS schools or stu­dents,” Hill said in the let­ter.

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