Clown threat hoax: local schools heighten security

Twitter image/Tweet provided by Beaumont ISD

Port Arthur Independent School District (PAISD) Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie reports that there will be increased security at Memorial High School on Monday, Oct. 3, in response to online clown threats - menacing social media posts currently being nationally circulated asserting that creepy-looking clowns will be making armed attacks on various schools. The posts are being called hoaxes by many school district officials; however, law enforcers are taking the threats seriously and multiple arrests have been made throughout the country.

PAISD's Porterie responded to a threat to Memorial High School in Port Arthur, promising parents their children would be protected and vowing to heighten security measures on the campus.

In a Facebook post, Porterie stated, "There has been a threat circulating stating there will be a shooting at Memorial High School tomorrow. Please know that we take all threats very seriously and have put the necessary measures in place to ensure all students and staff are safe from imminent harm or danger.

"We want to reassure you that it is safe to send your child to school tomorrow and we will have heightened security present to ensure the campus is safe.

"The threat has been on the news in several other states and seven students have been arrested. Though the name 'Memorial High School' has been circulating, there are several schools that hold that name and no specific location was noted.

"Please know that any and all threats will be investigated thoroughly and those that are found to have committed these acts will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

"Again, the safety and security of all students and staff are the #1 concern for our school district and we will continue to do our best to keep you informed."

Facebook from the district posts following Porterie's official statement included information pertaining to the hoaxes being perpetrated nationwide. A quick Google search or a glance at social media sites, such as Twitter, make it clear the clown threats are widespread. Spring Independent School District posted a message similar to PAISD's statement, stating that they too had received a clown-related threat and would increase security.

The post begins, "Dear Spring ISD Parents and Guardians: We have been made aware of a social media hoax made toward school districts and campuses across the state, including several Spring ISD campuses. Although this was determined to be a hoax and we will have school tomorrow, please know that we have taken precaution with extra security at our campuses."

According to a news report from WCPO in Cincinatti, Ohio, seven teens were arrested for making clown-related threats at area schools there. 

The Beaumont Independent School District (BISD) also issued a statement Oct. 3 informing parents and guardians that the district was aware of the social media hoax circulating in school districts across the country, and provided an image of a Tweet by someone going by the screen name "The Fruit City Clown" and using a picture of what appears to be a scary clown mask as an identifying icon. The image references upcoming threats to Ozen and Central schools on Thursday and West Brook on Friday. The post also threatens other area schools, such as Little Cypress-Mauriceville (LCM) and West Orange-Stark (WOS).

As a proactive measure, reports Special Assistant to the Superintendent Nakisha Burns, BISD issued the following statement:

"Beaumont ISD administrators have been made aware of a social media hoax made toward several local school districts alleging that people in clown costumes would harm students or teachers. This hoax has also circulated among school districts across the country. Several students (not from the area) have been arrested in connection to this threat. We are taking extra security precautions at all of our campuses.

"As you are aware, the safety of our students and staff is our top priority. The Beaumont ISD Police Department is monitoring the situation and has been in contact with local law enforcement. Be assured that the school district and local police will continue to monitor this matter. Thank you for your continued support."

Police warn that the trend is ongoing and more threats, and arrests, are imminent. In addition, the Beaumont Police Department (BPD) suggests Halloweeners may want to rethink their costumes if they were thinking of going as a clown.

In a Facebook post, BPD stated, "We have received calls from concerned citizens about the social media frenzy involving 'clown attacks.' There is nothing funny about this.

"We take all threats serious, however, it does not rise to the level of a credible threat. There are numerous rumors/hoaxes circulating the internet and social media in regards to clown attacks that happened in other states. We are monitoring these sites and as always, will remain vigilant.

"We are working with the FBI to make sure there are no legitimate 'local' threats to our surrounding schools.

"There have been no actual sightings of clowns trying to abduct children in our area or reported attacks.

"As a reminder, if you see something, please say something.

"As a precaution, it may not be a good idea to dress as a clown for Halloween this year."

BPD Officer Carol Riley said the department wants the public to know officers are investigating the threats and said the Tweet was a hoax. 

"From what we know, it looks like it was someone trying to be funny, but this type of thing is never funny," Riley added. "If there is any type of legitimate threat, we're on it."

Threats or sightings should be reported to local police, or call 9-1-1 in case of emergency.