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“Disturbing trend” continues as threats to high school, hateful messages shared in chat room

Schools by: Joanne Kountourakis, December 22, 2021

A violent threat against Northport High School, made in a gaming chat room by Northport High School students, was reported to the community late last week.

A violent threat against Northport High School, made in a gaming chat room by Northport High School students, was reported to the community by Superintendent of Schools Robert Banzer this past weekend, just days after a viral TikTok challenge threatening violence at schools caused concern nationally and locally.

Both the TikTok and chat room threats were investigated by local police and deemed non-credible.

“Late yesterday evening, high school administration was made aware that unidentified students participating in a gaming chat room made a violent threat against Northport High School, which they claimed would take place on December 23rd,” Mr. Banzer wrote in a December 18 email. The email came just two days after the superintendent addressed “several disturbing Tik Tok posts” threatening schools – part of a nationwide TikTok challenge – in an email to the Northport-East Northport community.

Disturbing racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic videos were also posted in the chat, Mr. Banzer said of the December 17 incident.

“Once again, I am extremely disappointed to be sharing a letter such as this. Not only are threats against our school community completely unacceptable, but the racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic messages are beyond deplorable and will not be tolerated,” he wrote.

According to the email, district officials contacted the Suffolk County Police Department immediately after learning of the threat and the videos. The individuals involved were identified and “will be subjected to discipline according to the Code of Conduct, effective immediately,” said Mr. Banzer.

Last month, the district launched the “Safe School Helpline,” a 24/7, anonymous helpline for students, staff or parents to report information about situations that might affect safety in the district, from depression and violence to illegal activity. District officials could not confirm, however, whether this most recent threat was reported through the helpline or via another channel.

“To help protect the identity of the individuals who brought the information forward regarding the non-credible threat, we cannot provide further information about how it was reported or the details of the investigation,” said Mr. Banzer in an emailed response to the Journal.

Mr. Banzer thanked the Suffolk County Police Department, district security, high school administration and the individuals who reported the chat room incident for their cooperation and hard work to ensure that there was no credible threat.

When asked about the repercussions the now identified students might face, Mr. Banzer said: “Depending on the seriousness of an incident involving a student, violations of the Code of Conduct can range from a verbal warning to a long term suspension.

“In addition to holding those involved accountable and issuing an appropriate consequence, we want any students who engage in this type of behavior to realize the seriousness of their actions and the impact and hurt it causes others so that it doesn’t happen again.”

In his December 18 email, Mr. Banzer strongly urged families to speak to their children about these most recent matters “and help us put an end to this disturbing trend.”