AUSTIN (KXAN) — Several threats have been made against schools in Texas this week, including one at Westwood High School and another at Akins High School, both near Austin.
At Westwood, the Round Rock Independent School District said it found alarming graffiti in the bathroom — photos of which spread on social media. That is under investigation, the district said in a letter to parents.
At Akins, the Austin Independent School District said it arrested a student Friday and charged that student with making a terroristic threat and online impersonation. Both charges are felonies.
“Once you post something you’re never going to be able to delete it, and it spreads like wildfire basically,” Skylar Hawn, the student council president at Akins, said of the threat at her school.
Students at Akins were put on a “hold” as law enforcement investigated that threat Thursday. Roberto Ramirez, a senior at the school and a member of the student newspaper, said he spent his day interviewing other students and taking photos from the school library.
“We weren’t entirely sure what was entirely going on, but we sensed that increased level of security,” he said.
Students said the threats are disruptive, and dozens of parents showed up at the high school to pick up their kids.
“In my seventh-period class, when the hold took place, there was maybe seven or eight kids — half of what there usually is — and so students weren’t even getting the instruction time and when there’s a hold on, no one can focus,” Hawn said.
While Ramirez said students are feeling a level of cynicism surrounding the number of threats made to schools, the associate director of training and education with the Texas School Safety Center said the number of reports we’re hearing about might actually be positive in the sense it could mean more people are being hyper-aware and reporting suspicious behavior more frequently.
“Students are reporting. Parents are reporting. And so that is really the positive point in all of this is that students know that it is OK to report, and they tell someone,” Celina Bley said.
State guidance for all school districts is every threat is investigated, but that can only happen if the school is made aware of the threat. Schools in Texas are required to have an anonymous tip line.
Students at Akins said they think many of their peers and students’ parents took the threat seriously this week.
“We didn’t know if it was real or not, and they didn’t want to take any risks,” Ramirez said.