Police investigate troubling Instagram posts involving Amherst Steele students

By Jason Hawk - jhawk@aimmediamidwest.com

An online confrontation led to the emergency removal of a student Tuesday morning at Steele High School.

Amherst police were alerted to troubling comments made on the social media platform Instagram.

Officers interviewed two ninth grade boys, visiting one’s home to ensure any perceived threat could not be carried out, according to a statement released by principal Michael May.

“The investigation has revealed the comments made on Instagram were not directed at the school or the students,” it said.

“One student felt intimidated by the other student so he decided to put some weird stuff up on Instagram,” said Lt. Dan Makruski. “There wasn’t an overt threat to the school or to doing anything like an active shooter, anything like that, that we’re aware of.”

Police were sent screenshots of the posts in question. The complainant believed threats had been made against the Amherst student body.

“It was concerning but it wasn’t like, ‘I’m going to shoot the school up. I’m going to kill a bunch of kids.’ More like… ‘Better be afraid of me,’” said Makruski.

May said school discipline procedures will be carried out and one student was removed from the building.

It was unclear from his public statement whether the student would be allowed to return; he told the News-Times an emergency removal can be effective up to 72 hours.

“I trust law enforcement and the job they do for us all here in Amherst,” he said.

No charges were filed.

Makruski said the incident is an example of how the deadly Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Fla., has changed the national awareness of problems facing schools. A couple of years ago, this situation would have been handled as simply a dispute between two students.

“The public really jumped on this one through social media” and showed it is on edge about school safety, he said.

“Anything that remotely involves violence, school-age people — we have to be prepared for the community to be real concerned about that.”

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk