Hilo Intermediate Social Media Threat a ‘Hoax’
A social media threat against Pearl City High School on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, was a hoax that triggered a series of copycat threats at campuses statewide, including a threat to Hilo Intermediate School on Hawai‘i Island.
The FBI said in a news release that none of the threats were credible.
The Hawai‘i Police Department also investigated the Hilo Intermediate threat and found it was not credible, but deployed police to some schools to ensure safety, according to a statement.
Superintendent Christina Kishimoto wrote a letter to public school families, reassuring them that authorities investigate all threats and asked them to do their part to keep rumors from spreading.
“According to the Honolulu Police Department, reposting a threat is as good as making the threat itself—it breathes life into the initial post,” she wrote. “We encourage anyone who sees these threats to take screenshots and immediately report them to school officials and the police, as well as report the offending accounts to the platforms on which they are made.”
Complex Area Superintendent Chad Farias and Heather Dansdill, Hilo Intermediate’s principal, also emailed letters to parents on Thursday, Feb. 21, reassuring them that additional school resource officers and HPD officers would be present at Hilo Intermediate on Friday.
The letters said terroristic threats “are considered Class A student conduct offenses… Penalties can range from detention to dismissal with the possibility of arrest and serious criminal charges.
According to the letters, school officials “are striving to balance the need for safety with our overall commitment to provide students and families with every sense of normalcy.”
Capt. Kenneth Quiocho, the Hilo patrol commander, said the threat was originally made anonymously on Tellonym, a phone app.
Capt. Quiocho said another student saw the threat, which the anonymous poster later retracted as “a joke,” and re-posted it to Instagram.
Puna District Police Commander John Briski said officers were making checks at schools in the area on Friday, adding that school resource officers were available to assist any of the schools that have “any issues that might come up.”
On Friday, the person responsible for the initial threat was identified by the FBI, the agency announced.
The FBI said students and faculty were never in danger; the perpetrator intended the threat to be “a joke.”
“Making false threats drains law enforcement resources and cost taxpayers a lot of money,” the FBI said in a press release on Friday. “When an investigation concludes there was a false or hoax threat made to a school or another public place, a federal charge could be considered, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.”
It wasn’t immediately clear if federal or state charges would be pursued against the person who posted the hoax threat.
The FBI advises the public to call 911 or submit tips to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov, call 1-800-CALL-FBI or the local field office at (808) 566-4300 if public safety appears to be at risk.