Police respond to Waimea middle school after social media threat

HILO — Police were dispatched Monday to the campus of Waimea Middle Public Conversion Charter School after a threat was made earlier in the day via a social media app.

According to Hawaii Police Department Lt. Robert Pauole of South Kohala patrol, the threat was made on Tellonym — the same app that was used Thursday to make a threat against the campus of Hilo Intermediate School.


“We’re just heading over to the school to have our presence shown,” Pauole said Monday.

He added there were no reported incidents on the campus itself, or to the adjacent Waimea Elementary School campus.

Patti Cook, community development liaison at the Waimea charter school, said the headline in the alert sent by police — “A terroristic threat has been made at Waimea Middle School” — was misleading.

“What happened was, there was a social media post on one of those allegedly anonymous apps,” Cook said. “It was posted, but it didn’t specifically name the school. But we took it very seriously. … And we ended up considering, with the help of police, that it was very likely a hoax. But we had additional police presence on campus, as well, to be sure that we were safe.”

A letter sent to parents and guardians Monday by Waimea Elementary School Principal Scott Tamura said police officers, as well as additional Department of Education security officers, were present on both campuses throughout the school day.

Cook said the middle school sent a letter with exactly the same text to parents and guardians.

“As with any emergency-type situation, we are striving to balance the need for safety with our overall commitment to provide students and families with every sense of normalcy. School will be open and there will be no change in the schedule,” the letter said.

The letter noted terroristic threats “are considered Class A student conduct offenses,” with penalties “ranging from detention to dismissal with the possibility of arrest and serious criminal charges.”

Cook said there were conversations with the teachers and students in the classrooms “about how dangerous social media can be and why.”

“You don’t really want to be engaging in conversations with strangers,” Cook noted. “And these social media platforms aren’t truly anonymous. Police report that they connected with and they know who initiated a threat that occurred” last week on Oahu.

“It’s a teachable moment for families and kids about being safe (and) staying safe,” Cook said. “And if you see something or hear something, report it to a trusted adult.”

Police are investigating the matter as first-degree terroristic threatening, which is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment.


Police encourage the public to notify them regarding any suspicious activity or threats made toward any school. Reports can be made to the police nonemergency number at 935-3311, Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 — or in an emergency to 911.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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