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Student arrested after school shooting threat posted to social media

The 18-year-old student faces multiple felony charges after causing concern in several counties throughout Florida.
A phone displays a threatening message sent via social media
Posted at 11:47 AM, May 06, 2023

Police in Broward County, Florida, said a student was arrested Friday in connection with a threatening social media post that caused concern in schools throughout South Florida and the Treasure Coast.

Coral Springs police announced that Catrina Petit, 18, who is a student at Taravella High School, was taken into custody.

The post mentioned there was a threat to commit a school shooting.

Police said Petit sent the threat out fraudulently using another student's name and computer access.

The threat was later posted on social media, causing concern in several counties throughout Florida.

Petit faces multiple felony charges, according to Coral Springs police.

Even though the threat surfaced earlier this week, Lori Phillips is a Palm Beach County mom who sent three kids to school Friday and kept one home.

"My daughter does have some general anxiety, so having the pressure of a threat is major for her, so I made the decision for her to stay home just because I know her personality and who she is," Phillips said. "It's kinda scary living as a parent in today's world."

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Parents throughout the state were struggling with that decision Friday after the social media threat went viral across the state. It did not mention a specific school or school district.

"We got several hundred messages that informed us of this same Snapchat or screenshot," Palm Beach County School District Police Chief Sarah Mooney said. "False information gets out probably quicker than true information and that's the hurdle. We have to make sure we have accurate information going out as quickly as possible to help the fears of the people who are seeing this."

The chief said that based on the information from Broward County they were able to determine the threat was not targeting any schools in Palm Beach County.

She said the school district will always put out as much information as possible to help parents feel informed.

"Knowledge is power in something like this, and it can help you not be as fearful when making a decision about whether to go to school," Mooney said.

She also applauded Palm Beach County parents and students for reporting the information to authorities and through the FortifyFL Florida app when they saw the threat and stressed the importance of not sharing information that is not credible.

"One kid sees it on Snapchat or in a chatroom somewhere and they get concerned and they act on the information they receive which is awesome," Mooney said. "Send it to somebody who can do something about it, inevitably it gets shared with another person and another person."

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Candace Lake is a licensed mental health counselor at the Faulk Center for Counseling in Boca Raton.

She said these threats can instill anxiety and fear, especially of the unknown. If your child is struggling, she said to "be open and listen to what (your) children's fears are and provide that safety and just that space to talk about it and help them reduce that fear."

Lake is also the school's program manager for the center and has worked in schools in Palm Beach County.

She said Friday morning that a client was talking to her about this threat that was circulating.

"Just try to meet them where they're at. What emotions are they feeling right now?" she said.

For the students and the parents and the community, it's a very fearful event.

"I think its important to first gather information so if you know this is mostly an unsubstantiated threat, reminding yourself that the reality is we are safe right now where you're at and just focusing on what you can do in the present," Lake added. "Because a lot of times when we are anxious, we are worried about what the future is."