Local school districts say social media rumors induce panic

Maximus McCullough talks to Dave Sess about post he made on Facebook that Campbell City Schools Superintendent Matthew Bowen said induced panic throughout the school.
Maximus McCullough talks to Dave Sess about post he made on Facebook that Campbell City Schools Superintendent Matthew Bowen said induced panic throughout the school.

CAMPBELL, Ohio (WKBN) – Two online posts that were perceived as threats disrupted local schools this week.

Worried parents flooded Campbell City Schools with calls on Thursday after hearing reports that a student was caught with a weapon, and the school was covering it up.

Campbell City Schools Superintendent Matthew Bowen immediately responded, calling the report a hoax. In an email to staff, Bowen said the district typically does not respond to social media or rumors, but he said the report created a “panic situation” at the K-7 school building.

“In our initial investigation, it appears an outside community member has created a story citing the arrest of a young girl who was framed with a weapon in her purse on school grounds. Parents viewing the post are being encouraged to call the school,” he wrote.

At the center of one of those posts is Maximus McCullough, and on Friday, he agreed to meet with WKBN to explain a blog post on his Youngstown Angels website, which said a Campbell elementary student supposedly had a gun at school. The website is described as a defender of the Constitution and says, “Our children in Youngstown ohio are in danger of losing their lives at the hand of negligent officials. This website is for those who demand accountability on the part of those officials and their employees [sic].”

McCullough said his post questioned a report he heard from a parent at the school district about a gun at the school.

“It was question. It was not an article saying this is what happened,” said McCullough. “This is something that I posted, the conversation between me and a parent on Facebook, and she wanted to have answers.”

Maximus’s daughter Faith was killed one year ago, when she was run over by a Youngstown City School bus. He admits that the post should have said Volney Rogers Middle School, referring to an incident on Wednesday in which a BB gun was found in a locker at Volney. But McCullough said he was well within his right to post it.

“I’m definitely concerned about child safety in this community. My daughter was killed by a school bus by a school employee during school hours, so if you think I have faith in the system, I don’t and I have proof,” he said.

McCullough has not been charged with a crime yet, but Campbell Schools’ superintendent believes he should be. Campbell Police continue to investigate the post, which sent panic and confusion through the school district.

“It was not just someone expressing their views and opinions,” said Bowen. “It was something specific that induced panic, encouraged others to call the school and also created a situation where they disrupted education for so many kids.”

Boardman Local Schools also dealt with an unrelated but similar post this week. It came from off-campus and disrupted education on school grounds.

Boardman Schools Superintendent Frank Lazzari said the report was thoroughly investigated, and parents were notified through the district’s call system and social networks. He said the threat was unsubstantiated, but it is still under investigation. While he would not elaborate on the threat, he said the families of the students involved have been contacted.

“Sometimes young people like to brag or feel big among their friends by making irresponsible comments, and you can’t do that,” he said.

Both school districts have been working with police, trying to diffuse the situations, but what they really hope is that no more threats or reports of unsubstantiated threats are made.

“There is something called inducing panic as part of the law, and you can’t just make comments and postings on social media and expect to get away with it without any consequences,” Lazarri said.

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