The Harris County District Attorney's Office has charged a 14-year-old Houston Independent School District student with making an anonymous “terroristic threat” on social media against an HISD school, according to a press release sent out by HISD on Monday. The student's threat contained an image of a clown, which led many to link the threat to a recent spate of clown sightings across the country.
Several HISD schools, as well as schools nationwide, have recently been the target of social media threats involving clown images, according to a different press release sent out by HISD on Monday. Despite the student's arrest, HISD police are continuing to investigate the matter.
“At this time, there is no evidence that the threats are credible,” HISD Police Chief Robert Mock said in the earlier release, which also called the threats “non-specific.”
HISD also isn't the only Houston-area school district that has recently faced clown threats. Klein Independent School District, Sheldon Independent School District and Spring Independent School District wrote posts on their respective Facebooks acknowledging the threats, though only Sheldon ISD and Spring ISD actually said that schools in their district had received threats.
The press release also stated that the threats “are believed to be part of a national hoax.” That “national hoax” is likely the numerous reports of sightings of people dressed in clown costumes, which have scared Stephen King lovers across the country. Reports of creepy clowns lurking about initially appeared in August in South Carolina, The New York Times reported, though people from Alabama to New Jersey have now been said to have seen them.
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While most of the sightings appear to have been brief and harmless – the clown just stared at a witness, or a witness ran away before any potential escalation – there have been some particularly troubling sightings. In North Carolina, a woman told police officials that a machete-wielding clown tried to lure her into the woods, according to local news outlet Fox 8. Just a few weeks ago, on September 25, a 16-year-old in Pennsylvania was stabbed to death following a confrontation that may have been provoked by someone wearing a clown mask, the Associated Press reported.
Even Texas hasn't been safe from clown sightings. On Sunday, Fort Worth police looked into a report of someone dressed as a clown, according to Fox 4, but found nothing. Police with the Dallas Independent School District as well as the city of Dallas are currently investigating clown-related threats, according to the Dallas ISD Twitter account.
HISD called HISD parents Monday morning to inform them of the situation, district spokeswoman Lila Hollin confirmed, before the arrest was made. In the phone call, a recording obtained by Click2Houston, a female voice said, “Out of an abundance of caution, police are monitoring the situation. Teaching and learning are continuing as usual…We are taking every precaution possible to ensure safety.”
As of press time, the HISD press office has declined to release any more information about the matter. We'll update when we hear more.