HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — Local police are looking into clown-related threats that have been circulating within the last 24 hours on social media.
10 On Your Side heard from many viewers Friday morning about the alleged threats.
Hampton school officials sent the following message to parents of students at Hunter B. Andrews, Phenix and their four high schools Friday morning:
This is to inform you of a social media posting regarding a rumor of a threat to our building. Please know that the Hampton Police Department and Hampton City Schools are aware of the posting.
We have confidence in the police department addressing this matter. Please know that we have taken measures to ensure the continued safety of our students and staff. While law enforcement has not determined this to be a credible threat, in addition to other measures, you will see an increased presence of law enforcement at our building.
As always, thank you for your continued support as we work together to keep our schools safe.
Hampton City Schools spokeswoman Diana Gulotta says, “We have the lives of 20,000 kids in our hands and we’re going to make sure we do everything we can to keep them safe.”
Gulotta said they contacted parents via phone and email, and posted a message on social media. She said, “Oftentimes when something is posted on social media, it very quickly grows into something that it’s not. So we wanted to be as proactive as possible and get information out to our parents to let them know what we knew.”
Michelle Price with Newport News schools says parents can expect extra police presence Friday in the area around schools. Price says they will be limiting outside activities as well. The school system posted this message on its Facebook page:
As many of you have shared with NNPS, there are social media posts threatening several schools in Newport News and in other local cities. The police department is actively investigating the social media accounts. Out of an abundance of caution, NNPS is taking additional steps today to ensure the safety of our students. The police department is also increasing its presence in and around our schools. We take these threats seriously; and thank our families for helping us keepour schools safe and secure. Please continue to report suspicious activities.
The safety of our students and staff is of the utmost importance and we will remain vigilant in this regard.
10 On Your Side has reached out to local police divisions and departments for their response to the threats.
Police say they are closely monitoring threats made on social media to some of the area’s schools. They say there is no information now that the threats are credible.
In a news release on Friday, police said the threats appear to be a national trend. Police are working with Hampton school officials, and they say there will be an increased presence of officers at schools today.
Hampton also noted Friday that wearing a mask in public is a felony in Virginia, which carries a possible penalty of five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
Isle of Wight
The following message was shared with parents and staff members this afternoon:
“On Friday, September 30, 2016, we were made aware of possible threats to our schools made on social media. We take these threats seriously and are working closely with the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Department. We will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates as necessary. As always, the safety and security of our students and staff remains our number one priority.”
The Newport News Police Department says it is aware of the threats made to local schools. A spokesperson told WAVY.com, ” We are actively investigating these claims and are working with Newport News Public Schools to take steps to ensure the safety of our schools and our citizens. Throughout the day parents, students and staff will see an increased officer presence at Newport News Public Schools, in addition to the School Resource Officers assigned to the school, and may notice extra patrol checks in the area. We ask that citizens remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity.”
Suffolk police have also received word about the threats, but do not believe they are credible.
Marielena Balouris spoke with parents of children who attend Hunter B. Andrews school in Hampton. One woman said she kept her son home because of the threats. Another man said he did not keep his children home, but he did check in with his kids’ teachers after hearing of the threats.
“I was just concerned about my kids’ safety and everybody else’s child’s safety so I wanted to make sure that my kids were safe,” said Timothy Lanier. He lives across the street from Andrews School and says he was keeping an eye out for anything that looked unusual. He said, “Everything’s been silent. I was just looking around just trying to make sure. I’ve been looking out all day.”
Tonya Pierce, spokesperson with Virginia Beach police, says they are aware of the threats and are taking them seriously. Pierce says there is no evidence suggesting there are any credible threats in Virginia Beach.