Blackpool high school head in Facebook warning to pupils

Police presence at Montgomery High School as pupils arrive for school following online threats on Facebook
Police presence at Montgomery High School as pupils arrive for school following online threats on Facebook

Special assemblies warning of the dangers of social media were held at Montgomery High School just days before threats to ‘massacre’ students were posted online.

The revelation came as more than a thousand pupils stayed at home as the day an anonymous Facebook threat-maker pledged to ‘kill as many people as possible’ passed without incident.

Principal Tony Nicholson, who accused the person behind the posts of spreading anxiety amongst parents, said: “Social media can have significant dangers for the young people of today. We all recognise that, it would be irresponsible not to.

“It can be used for good but also for uses that are not. It can be a source of anxiety and stress for obvious reasons.

“Whoever has posted these threats has created anxiety amongst pupils and parents.”

He continued: “Quite a few parents kept their children off and I understand why they are anxious; I’m a parent myself.

“We need to work together to rebuild confidence.

“Just before Christmas we led assemblies on the appropriate and inappropriate use of social media. We had a drama group who came in and did sessions with pupils.”

Attendance at the school, in All Hallows Road, Bispham, dropped to just 268 yesterday – down from its usual 1,371 – as parents kept their children away after the threat-maker, who heaped praise on gunmen who carried out gun massacres in the US, warned: “You think it’s a joke? You’ll see bullets, bodies, and blood.”

The posts went viral over the weekend as Facebook users claimed smashed windows at the school – which is being treated as petty vandalism and not linked to the threats – were caused by gunshots.

Police officers stood guard at every entrance to the school yesterday as some of the students who defied the threats were escorted inside by staff, who were helped by colleagues from nearby Aspire Academy in Blackpool.

Neighbourhood police inspector James Martin reiterated the threats were deemed as ‘not credible’ – but declined to reveal how that conclusion had been reached.

He said: “The investigation is being conducted by another department. Every threat is processed by police and it’s worked on by the information and the intelligence we have.

“Then people are trained to make decision on whether the threat is credible or not and at the moment we’re not treating this as credible.

“My job was to assure people they can come to school as normal. The school opened, which I think is very important, and that helped us get everything back to normal.”

Mr Nicholson, who said the school has suffered from a ‘difficult period of press coverage’, said his priority was now getting pupils back into the classroom and rebuilding confidence.

He also hit back at online comments suggesting the school had a problem with bullying, the motive given by the gunmen, who vowed: “The bullies will be sorry when I go into school with a gun.”

He said: “I would absolutely refer parents to the Ofsted report that is due to be published. The school is recognised as doing a good job. Bullying is rare and dealt with appropriately, and I do mean rare.

“That does not mean it doesn’t happen but it is dealt with robustly and the pastoral care is very good.

“The report says pupils feel safe in school and wear their uniforms with pride, which they do without a doubt.”

Counselling has been offered to Montgomery students affected by recent events, while police are expected to continue their patrols as they continue their manhunt.

A spokesman said: “Lancashire Constabulary will continue to provide a reassurance presence in and around Montgomery High School and are in the process of pursuing a number of strong lines of enquiry.”

Insp Martin added: “The threat is not being treated as credible but the public do need some reassurance. It has got out onto the social media network and there’s been a lot of internet talk, so my job is to reassure staff, pupils, and families that it’s OK to come to school.”

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