Officials take school threats seriously - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Officials take school threats seriously

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STEVENS POINT (WAOW) -

Threats of violence in central Wisconsin have made headlines recently in Medford, Auburndale and Nekoosa.

What's causing this?

Valerie Fetting, a school counselor at Stevens Point Area High School, says it may be due to students feeling a lot of pressure.

"I think just heightened stress in general is really a huge part of what's causing that," Fetting said.

But it's not only an increase in threats – it's how they're being discovered. Social media is now something police and school officials need to keep a close eye on.

"Social media brings a whole new element to threats in general because it's coming from a number of different avenues," Fetting said.

"Social media, in general in law enforcement, has made things more challenging for us," said Sgt. Tony Babl, Stevens Point Police Department.

When determining whether a threat is credible, police say they try to figure out the person's intentions. They say social media can make that difficult.

"Were they just having a bad day and spouted a comment that created the backlash, or is it a specific threat towards an individual or towards the school?" Sgt. Babl said.

Police say the goal is to keep schools safe for students and staff.

"We have to look at how the threat came in to determine its credibility. Definitely if it's a school setting, we'll take it a little more seriously," Sgt. Babl said.

School officials say communication is the best way to maintain a safe environment.

"Doors are open, and communication is there because if we you about a potential unsafe circumstance, we can deal with it and address it," Fetting said.

School counselors stress that no situation should go unreported.

People who make school-related threats can face serious penalties. Stevens Point Police officials say they take every threat seriously.

Depending on the situation, students can potentially face felony charges for their actions.

Police say they try to figure out what the intention of a threat was, but the outcome of the situation is also considered.

"If it creates a day off of school and our resources being used up to search a school, and a lot of hours, a person can still be charged," Sgt. Babl said.

Police say they work with school administrators to decide what type of legal penalties someone who makes a threat should face.

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