Two boys charged with induce a panic

CALCUTTA — Two Beaver Local students, 10 and 11, were charged with inducing a panic after posting a video posing with a pellet gun using threatening and expletive language, though no one in particular was threatened.

Copies of the charges will be mailed to the parents of two boys telling them when they have to report to Columbiana County Juvenile Court, according to K. Bret Apple, Columbiana County assistant prosecutor. The charges are the juvenile court equivalent of a first-degree misdemeanor.

The youths will not be taken to the county juvenile detention facility because the county has a policy against placing youths there under the age of 12, he said.

The first boy can be seen in the video wearing a mask telling a boy — identified only by his first name — “You’re (expletive), you’re dead.”

The second boy then enters the video and states, “And let me just do something.” He then grabs a pellet gun and aims it at the camera. “If you got a problem with that, I gun you down, (expletive),” he said, to no one in particular.

The second boy concludes by saying “All of you who hate us, (expletive) off.”

The video, which appeared to be filmed at a home, was posted in early June on a popular video app. It was not brought to the attention of school officials until Aug. 7, and they contacted St. Clair Township police. Police Chief Brian McKenzie said they interviewed the boys in front of their parents, and then met with the Columbiana County Prosecutor’s Office to determine if the action depicted in video warranted charges. They did not hear back until Friday.

School Superintendent Eric Lowe reassured parents they were on top of the situation.

“We want people to approach us. We want people to know we are here, because school safety is of the utmost importance. We take all matters seriously that come to us, and that’s why we reached out to the police department,” he said. “We would never do anything that would put our students at risk.”

When word of the video began to spread on social media Thursday night, Lowe became inundated with calls and messages from concerned parents.

Lowe and McKenzie said while it is understandable parents should be concerned, they believe that angst was needlessly fueled by speculation on social media over the previous 24 hours. Both said some people need to pause and reconsider before posting on social media.

“I think in today’s world it’s important to stress responsibility on social media. Even us adults also have to remember that because things said on social media can heighten things to a whole new level,” Lowe said. “I think first and foremost we should expect responsibility and accountability from our children, and we should also expect that from adults.”

McKenzie said he understands why parents were concerned and emphasized that they take every threat seriously, but he said they have to wait for the process to play out.

“We’re not ever going to jump to conclusions to make someone happy,” he said. “If we had thought there was an immediate threat we would have acted.”

McKenzie said if people had been more proactive and first reported the video to them in June instead of two months later, the issue would have been resolved then “and we wouldn’t be here talking about this” right before school starts on Monday.

Apple said the growing concern about the video as it spread on social media played a key role in the decision to file charges for inducing panic.

During Friday night’s meeting, the school board went into closed session with their attorney to discuss the situation now that the youths were charged. Lowe said while deciding what to do, the administration is working with the boys’ parents on a resolution of the matter.

A township police officer is already assigned to the school full time. McKenzie said he plans to have his other officers make periodic visits at Beaver Local over the coming weeks until the situation calms down.

Tom Giambroni is a reporter for the Lisbon Morning Journal.