Social media fuels rumors of threat against West Forsyth High School

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CLEMMONS, N.C. -- About two-thirds of West Forsyth High School’s student population either left early or didn’t show up at all on Friday, largely due to a threat which may have never truly been made.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools officials say late Thursday night/early Friday morning, they received information from a parent, saying that their child had seen a tweet which contained a threat against West Forsyth High School. The school system increased security on campus with the help of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and the school’s principal sent out a phone message to parents.

“Good morning parents, this is Charles McAninch, principal at West Forsyth High School. Parents, I am calling in regard to the threat to our campus that has been posted anonymously on Twitter,” the message said. “We have contacted the sheriff’s department and they are investigating this threat. I have asked for extra security throughout the day, as our goal is to maintain the safety of our campus and out students.”

However, rumors of the threat not only spread; they intensified.

“Social media. Social media has been the number one reason that people have found out most of this information and it spread quite quickly,” said Brent Campbell, chief marketing and communications program officer for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system.

Students tell FOX8 they heard rumors ranging from bomb threats to school shootings. Yet, investigators have been unable to find evidence of a threat being made against the school.

Social media also became a platform for parents to spread false information. For example, on the FOX8 Facebook page, parents posted saying the school was on lockdown and students were hearing gunfire. One post even went as far as saying her daughter said that “someone’s car window was shot” and there was “more than one person on campus with guns.”

The school was never put on lockdown, Campbell said.

Early attendance figures showed that about 1,500 of the approximate 2,300 students who attend West Forsyth High School were not in attendance for the entire day Friday, but the school tried to operate as normally as possible.

“Regardless of if they’re true or not, we want to make sure we investigate them to the fullest extent,” Campbell said, of possible threats.

He added that the school system treats every threat as though it’s credible, and with the utmost importance, to make sure the students and staff are safe.

“I think it’s just important that parents talk with their students, know their environment and also talk to them about the credibility of some of these things,” Campbell said. “Everything you see on social media is not always true.”