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February 24, 2018

Reports: 90 potential threats investigated in Pa., N.J. since Florida shooting

Threats Schools
02142018_Parkland_Shooting3_USAT John McCall / Sun Sentinel//TNS/Sipa USA

Medical personnel tend to a victim outside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. after reports of an active shooter on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. At least 17 people were shot and killed in the attack.

Threats on schools across the region have been reported in droves since the school shooting in Florida that left 14 students and three staff members dead on Valentine's Day, leaving students, school staff and authorities across the country on edge in its wake.

Roman Catholic High School in Center City became one of the latest area schools this week to receive threats, Philadelphia police said. 

At least two students tipped off the school this week that another student had posted comments on social media about "shooting up the school," police told PhillyVoice on Saturday. The school contacted authorities on Thursday morning, and the 17-year-old student has been charged with terroristic threats, police said.

In South Jersey, authorities in West Deptford said they had arrested a 15-year-old West Deptford High School student who posted a message on Snapchat that included threats of "shooting up West Deptford."

"The West Deptford Police Department takes any threats directed toward our schools or community seriously," the police department said in a Facebook post. "We encourage parents to have discussions with their children about bringing threatening social media posts or any other threats to the attention of school administration or the police."

Also on Friday, Woodbury City Public Schools announced that a Snapchat message from a West Deptford student had made a threat toward Woodbury High School.

The incidents mark the latest in a number of threats across the region, which have spiked since 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz allegedly went on a shooting rampage with an AR-15 rifle inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the Broward County town of Parkland.

In Pennsylvania, state police told PennLive on Friday that it had counted 75 different threats on schools across the state since the shooting.

West Oak Lane Middle School in North Philadelphia experienced a scare two days following the shooting after the principal had received a report that a student was seen carrying a gun inside the building. The school went into lockdown until police recovered a toy gun on school grounds.

There have also been a number of threats across South Central Pennsylvania this week, including "direct and specific" threats since Tuesday that shuttered schools in Central York School District for three straight days. The school district remained closed Friday while authorities continued to track down the culprit.

While a rise in threats is common in the aftermath of a major mass shooting, the spike seen in Pennsylvania is not, police told PennLive.

"This is kind of an outlier," state police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski told the site. "This has been more extreme than we have seen in the past."

In New Jersey, NJ.com rounded up 17 distinct threats.

Along with the West Deptford case, South Jersey incidents this week also included a "false public alarm" allegedly raised by a 12-year-old at Anthony Rossi Middle School in Vineland.

Deptford High School and Gloucester County Institute of Technology have also been threatened since the Parkland shooting, police say. 

Deptford Township police said early Friday that they had investigated social media posts that indicated there would be a shooting at either school. Police said they "have identified the source and have taken immediate action to assure the safety of the schools."

Cruz went in front of Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer on Monday in his first live televised court appearance. His attorney has said that Cruz, a former student at the school who was expelled in 2016, will plead guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder if prosecutors do not seek the death penalty.