Clowns Causing Chaos Through Social Media

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by Eldon Graham

Clown-themed social-media accounts target schools in Phila. as well as the tri-state area.

Clown-themed social-media accounts target schools in Phila. as well as the tri-state area.

The month of October is known for bringing out fictional ghouls and goblins from and into all walks of life. But, as a rash of menacing clown threats have made clear, when these apparitions are embodied by persons unknown and used to strike terror and fear into the hearts of the innocent, there is a line between prank and danger that, if crossed, requires a commensurate response from the authorities.

This past week, the School District of Philadelphia alerted parents and schools about individuals wearing clown masks who were threatening to terrorize and do harm to certain schools in the city. The school district was alerted to the threat when clown-related Instagram accounts posted picture messages targeting the schools.

An account known as @philly_clowns215 posted a message of the schools they will target, which are: Francis Hopkinson School; Nueva Esperanza Academy Charter School; Edison/Fareira High School; Mariana Bracetti Academy Charter School; Gilbert Spruance Elementary School; and Northeast High School.

Another Instagram account under the handle of @phillyclown215 listed Mastery Charter School’s Shoemaker Campus, Imhotep Institute Charter High School, Olney High School, Delaware Valley Charter School, Philadelphia Electrical & Tech Charter High School, Martin Luther King High School, Frankford High School and “Harden,” which seems to be a reference to Warren G. Harding Middle School. The caption for the photo reads: “HERES THE SCHOOLS WE COMING FOR.”

Local authorities are treating this threat very seriously. The Instagram accounts have identified Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as their target dates to strike against the schools.

In a joint statement released earlier this week, the SDP and PPD announced, “The School District of Philadelphia’s Office of School Safety alerted both the Philadelphia Police Department and the Office of Homeland Security Saturday upon learning of these disturbing social media posts. The safety of our children and the communities surrounding our schools is a top priority for us and we are taking this matter seriously.”

A third account, known as @clownsofphilly, reads “SCHOOLS DOWNTOWN” and lists Roman Catholic High School, J.W. Hallahan Catholic Girls High School, String Theory Schools and “FRIENDSHIP,” a possible reference to Friends Select School. The caption of the photo reads, “We going to these schools on Thursday.”

“The Philadelphia Police Dept. is actively investigating these social media posts and pursuing those responsible for them,” the PPD/SDP statement read. “The SDP Office of School Safety will continue working in concert with the PPD to ensure the safety of our children and our schools when school reopens on Wednesday after the holiday break.”

Monday, the police released a statement, identifying a 13-year-old South Philadelphia 8th-grade girl as one of the culprits in an apparent prank. “As a result the ongoing investigative efforts by law enforcement and tips provided by citizens, a 13-year-old juvenile female, who attends a local school, has been identified as a participant involved in these posts placed on Instagram. This juvenile indicated that this ‘prank only’ was committed with a friend at her school and she never had any intent to harm anyone. The facts of the case will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review.”

When reached out to a PPD spokesperson and the SDP for additional comment, the police and School District said, “The investigation is ongoing.”

Schools in Cumberland, York, Lancaster and Lebanon Counties as well as other parts of Pennsylvania have also been plagued by clown threats. “While there have been similar social media posts regarding schools in other states and in Pennsylvania the PPD and the SDP remain in contact with Homeland Security and will continue to investigate local threats on social media.”

As of this moment it is not known whether this is all an elaborate ruse arising out of the Halloween season or some piece in a larger scheme of things. If anyone has any information surrounding these post, they are urged to contact Philadelphia Police Dept. immediately at (215) 686-TIPS (8477).

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