Police lodged felony charges Wednesday against a Hamilton County man accused of threatening to “shoot up the Gloversville High School Columbine style” in a message to a student he didn’t know.
Trevor Blanchard, 24, of 104 Stanyon Park Drive, Speculator, was charged with making terroristic threats and disseminating indecent materials to a minor.
Gloversville Police Chief Donald W. VanDeusen said Blanchard sent images of a nude male to the 14-year-old student and asked her to send him some images via the social networking site Snapchat. The student told school officials she got the message over the weekend, sparking an investigation.
The Gloversville Enlarged School District posted a notice on its website Monday stating the girl was harassed on Snapchat “in a way that potentially threatened her safety and that of others while at school,” but the notice reported local police “investigated the threat and determined that it is not credible.”
A second threat apparently elevated the situation’s credibility Wednesday, leading to the district’s “lockout” procedure, which entails locking exterior doors but continuing classes as usual. Officials put the Lincoln Street high school on lockout status for about an hour Wednesday after the female student received the second communication.
Superintendent Michael Vanyo said the district’s notice posted Monday was based on the best information officials had at the time.
VanDeusen said the investigation involved Gloversville police, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department, the Johnstown Police Department, state police and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department.
VanDeusen said he just learned about Snapchat this week during the investigation.
“Regardless of the new technology and the new means of social media that are out there, you may believe that you are anonymous but you’re not,” he said. “There are always ways to be able to track down these people who believe they are anonymous to perpetrate these types of crimes.”
Snapchat, according to its home page, is a social media platform like Twitter and Facebook that allows users to send a brief message and photo to their friends and have the communication delete itself soon afterward.
Vanyo said the situation provides the district an opportunity to caution students and alert parents about the potential perils of social media.
Snapchat users are able to restrict the application’s use so their information is private and is shared only with friends. In this case, those tools weren’t used, and the female student was getting messages from a stranger.
“This girl was not a willing participant. She was nothing but a victim of this. She was getting harassed by somebody that she didn’t even know,” Vanyo said. “It’s really important for kids and for parents especially to know all the different social media sites that are out there.”
There’s a need for youth and their parents to learn not only how to participate in the different social media, but also the rules and safeguards built into them, he said.
Blanchard was being held pending arraignment in Gloversville City Court.