School district takes serious stance on social media threats

BROWNSVILLE — The Brownsville school district yesterday sought help from the district’s parents and the community to send a clear message to students about the consequences of making false reports or threats on social media, primarily Facebook.

The warning came as the result of threats involving clowns and received in recent days at eight BISD middle schools and high schools.

“We ask that the students think before they do something that could ruin their lives,” Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas said at a news conference about threats that she said were being copied and posted on Facebook involving clowns.

Similar threats, all involving clowns and threatening violence, have surfaced in communities across the country since August.

“As of now we haven’t seen any clowns in our schools, and we don’t intend to,” Zendejas said. “We’re asking for the community to speak to the students. What is happening is the students are taking something found on social media and repeating it. … This is a very serious issue where the students could end up incarcerated. … In the past day several of our schools have been seriously disrupted. They use Facebook, and pretty soon everybody gets a message,” she said.

Zendejas said BISD on Monday worked with Facebook and the Brownsville Police Department to identify a student at Porter Early College High School, who is alleged to have made such a threat.

Bradley Salinas, 18, a Porter senior, was arrested Monday and charged with false alarm/report, a state jail felony. He remained jailed Tuesday afternoon at the Brownsville Police Department, BISD police said at the news conference.

Brownsville Police Chief Orlando Rodriguez said his department is backing up BISD’s police department with an increased presence around schools to ensure the safety of students.

“In other parts of the country we’re seeing actual assaults,” Rodriguez said. “We encourage people not to follow the craze. If anyone goes out and copycats this, they’re going to face the consequences.”

Rodriguez added that the basic requirement for something to be considered a threat is for someone else to feel threatened. “It’s how you do it. You can’t cause a panic,” he said.

Zendejas expressed faith in the Brownsville community.

“The root of this is Facebook and social media,” she said. “Regretfully this has reached down to the farthest tip of Texas and the U.S. We need to work with the parents and the community,” to meet the challenge, she said.