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Pittsfield superintendent alerts families about social media threat

  • 2 min to read

In a recorded and emailed messages Tuesday, Pittsfield’s top school official told families that the district is aware of vague threats of school violence circulating on social media.

The messages are coming “across state lines,” Superintendent Joseph Curtis said. The posts are not believed to have originated in Pittsfield but led to unfounded speculation, among students, that at least one school had gone into lockdown.

“We have received communications from many family members about a post that is being circulated through social media,” Curtis said in the messages. “Representatives of the Pittsfield Police Department are aware.”

Audio of message sent Oct. 26, 2021

In a statement, Pittsfield police said the messages on social media do not pose a threat locally. Though the posts have caused worry to Pittsfield families, police said there is no evidence that violence is planned at a city school.

Lt. Gary Traversa said no threat has been found to be credible. “It is consistent with a nationwide hoax. No specific threat directed at a Pittsfield School was received,” he said in the statement. “Pittsfield Police are, however, collecting any information provided, as the viral effect of the messaging has continued to circulate among the Pittsfield Public School community this morning.”

Patrol officers went to Pittsfield schools buildings today “out of an abundance of caution,” he said. Anyone with specific information on a threat should call the Detective Bureau Tip Line at 413-448-9706, the department said, or submit an online report through its website, at www.pittsfieldpd.org.

Though the messages do not specifically refer to the Pittsfield schools, Curtis invited families to reach out to authorities. “As always, if anyone has any additional information, please contact the Pittsfield Police Department, the School Principal, or my office immediately,” he said.

Other school districts around the country have shared similar messages with families regarding the social media threats, including one circulating on Snapchat.

In his email, Curtis shared a link to a television station’s report about a similar threat that was received by social media users in Penfield, N.Y., in the Rochester area.

On Monday night, the Penfield school superintendent sent a message to families explaining that the post contains vague threats to “shoot up” a school. The local sheriff said the language in the post is similar to that appearing in social media feeds around the U.S.

Second message

In a second message sent later Tuesday morning with more background information, Curtis said a Taconic High School parent told him about a social media post at 8:15 a.m. At about the same time, a Taconic student reported the language in the post to school administrators.

“The threat was not believed to be credible and was consistent with, upon further information, a nationwide hoax,” Curtis wrote in his second message.

In his second message to the community, Curtis said rumors flew that Taconic was on a lockdown and that a gun had been found. Curtis said no gun was present.

“Various parents, students, and community members also assumed that the police cars that were at Taconic in the morning were as a result of the social media post, which was also not true,” he said.

Curtis urged families to discount rumors and seek credible information from school officials. “I know these social media posts are upsetting to say the least, but we continue to ask our families and community members to rely on our near immediate and constant messaging from our school and district administrators,” he wrote.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.

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