A digitally altered image in which a 14-year-old student made it look like he was holding a gun to another student’s head aboard a Bulloch County Schools bus last week resulted in criminal charges against the teenage suspect, according to the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office.
After being charged with disorderly conduct and disrupting a public school, the 14-year-old was turned over to his mother, said BCSO Chief Deputy Bill Black.
“The juvenile offender had altered a photograph to make it look like he was holding a gun to another student's head,” Black stated Monday in a reply email. “No actual gun was present. No other charges are expected at this time.”
A Bulloch County Schools news release received Saturday stated that the image had been “shared with some students, school faculty and district administrators late Friday afternoon” and that it depicted “possible criminal activity on a school bus” but appeared to be a “digitally altered graphic” instead of an authentic photo.
The news release, issued by Hayley Greene, the Bulloch County Schools public relations director, did not identify the nature of the apparent, possible criminal activity. But phoned Monday, she confirmed that the image had given the appearance of a student being threatened with a weapon aboard a bus serving Statesboro High School and William James Middle School.
“School district and law enforcement personnel worked closely together to investigate the incident,” Greene stated in the original release. “This led to a possible suspect being quickly identified. The suspect was placed in custody. … Consequences will be distributed accordingly by law enforcement and the school district.”
School system personnel had immediately reported the image to law enforcement, and officers quickly confirmed that it was an altered image that did not represent a real event, she reported. The school district's review of surveillance video from the school bus reportedly confirmed this as well.
“However, the initial uncertainty about the image's validity caused concerns about school safety among some parents and students,” Greene wrote. “It also disrupted school transportation operations.”
The school district’s news release about this incident went on to ask that parents “continue to speak with their children about the importance of respect, self-control, and personal responsibility for their actions, especially with digital tools and social media.” Greene noted that multiple fads on social media encourage children to act inappropriately and create and post inappropriate content.
“Children do not think of the legal consequences or the negative digital footprints they create that can hurt them later in life,” she stated on behalf of the school system. “We teach digital citizenship in our schools, and we ask you to remain vigilant at home as well.
“Bulloch County Schools always encourages students and adults to say something if you see something,” the release continued, encouraging reports of crimes or suspicious activity involving the schools to a school administrator, trusted adult or law enforcement tip lines:
• Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office: 912.764.1771 or email@example.com
• Statesboro Police Department: Text “TIPSSPD” plus your message to 274637 (CRIMES) or report a tip online at statesboropd.com
• Bulloch County Schools Safety Department: 912.212.8891 or firstname.lastname@example.org