BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Two weeks after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people, three students were arrested in Niagara County for making similar threats.
“In each case threats were made to the school where the offenders said that they were going to bring a gun to the school, in some cases shoot up in the school. In other cases, up the body count,” explained Niagara County Sheriff Jim Voutour.
In each case, the suspect was arrested and no one was hurt. Two of the suspects are 16-years-old, the third is just 12.
Sheriff Voutour said threats of violence do occur on occasion in Niagara County, but seeing three credible ones within the same week is a spike, he told us.
He also said seeing a suspect as young as 12 is both rare and disturbing.
He believes the violence in Florida likely sparked the threats in Niagara County.
“All three cases were identified by students through social media,” Voutour said.
Dr. Amanda Nickerson believes the national notoriety suspects’ often achieve in mass shootings can promote copy cats.
“For people that are otherwise seeking attention and or vulnerable in some way, seeing the attention, it brings things up to the service that may have otherwise not been there.”
Nickerson is a professor at UB’s Gradate School of Education and also the Director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention.
Psychologists around the country are asking if mass shootings should be approached differently to lessen the impact of the suspected shooter.
“Do we need to be more careful about how we’re reporting on them, how we’re discussing them, particularly with regards to the perpetrator to try to minimize or avoid some of this copy cat phenomenon?” Nickerson questioned.
She said there’s not a set profile for the type of student who makes threats or carries them out. However, both she and Sheriff Voutour said suspects generally experience some sort of bullying.
Their plan or their turmoil is also often expressed beforehand on social media.
“We take it very serious,” Voutour said of threats.
“If you do it in Niagara County you’re going to get arrested.”
Dr. Nickerson stressed that parents have an opportunity to inform their students here, but warned not to sensationalize trauma. She stated that generally speaking, schools are still a safe place for children to be, and parents should instill that in their kids.
In terms of making schools safer, Sheriff Voutour believes schools need more law enforcement; he’d like to see School Resource Officers (SROs) in every school in Niagara County.
Voutour also supports Sheriff Timothy Whitcomb’s idea in Cattaraugus County, to treat schools like the court system by providing armed law enforcement at the entrance.
Voutour does not support arming teachers.
“We don’t ask cops to teach chemistry. We shouldn’t ask chemistry teachers to be cops,” he said.