Two JBMS students charged with making terroristic threats after Facebook postings

February 15, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |

MERCERSBURG, Pa. — Two James Buchanan Middle School students face terroristic threats charges after allegedly threatening in Facebook postings to burn down a school.

Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Stephen Rowe said the children did not specify which school, but they attend James Buchanan Middle School. Both were turned over to the custody of the Franklin County (Pa.) Juvenile Probation Department.

Rowe said he's heard colleagues speak of threats against people and institutions made with social media.

"Be cautious of what you post because more people than what you expect can see it," Rowe said.

Greencastle (Pa.) Police Chief John Phillippy shared similar caution about social media.

"There needs to be some focus and concern. Quite frankly, there needs to be parental interaction to educate young people," he said.

Phillippy said his department has not encountered social media-based threats against institutions. He said online threats against people can factor into investigations.

"Certainly I'm aware of where social media has had some evidentiary value in prosecution," he said.

Waynesboro (Pa.) Police Chief Mark King said he investigated a case of threats against juveniles several years ago when he was a detective. The individual created a list of teenagers using Yahoo and Facebook accounts.

"People are seeing what you're posting, and now you have witnesses" in a case, King said. "You're going to get charged with a crime."

Tools like search warrants can be used by police, King said.

Phillippy said a limited amount of training on social media is available to local police, who can use resources through the state police and Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office.

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