FBI involved in investigation of Snapchat threats to local students


Federal investigators are looking into recent Snapchat messages received by Sumrall Middle School students last week that were reportedly racist and threatened violence against the recipient.

Although FBI officials would not confirm that they are involved in the investigation, Lamar County Superintendent Tess Smith said the FBI is working to find who sent the messages. She referred all questions to the Jackson office.

As far as trying to eliminate hateful, bullying incidents, Smith said educators are having difficulty trying to protect the students.

“It is very difficult,” she said. “The technology that is in the hand of everyone these days can be overwhelming at times. People often use the anonymity of (Facebook) or Snapchat to say things to others that they would never say face to face.”

Smith sent out a statement last week after the messages were received on social media.

“SMS Administrators are currently investigating a string of items from a SnapChat account,” she said. “At this point we have not been able to trace the account or its origin. There was an edited photo of a student. That parent has been notified. As other students are identified from the message(s), their parents are being notified as well.”

Smith promised swift action toward the person who was sending the messages.

“We do not condone this type of message and/or behavior,” she said. “As soon as the culprit is identified, the punishment with be severe. We work very hard to ensure the safety of everyone on our campuses and will continue to do so.”

Parents should pay close attention to what their children are looking at on the Internet, Smith warned.

“As for parents, I think that they need to be very aware of what their children are doing on the Internet, apps, etc.,” she said.

According to the agency’s website, “The FBI is the lead federal agency for investigating cyberattacks by criminals, overseas adversaries and terrorists. The threat is incredibly serious – and growing. Cyber intrusions are becoming more commonplace, more dangerous and more sophisticated.

“Citizens are targeted by fraudsters and identity thieves, and children are targeted by online predators. Just as the FBI transformed itself to better address the terrorist threat after the 9/11 attacks, it is undertaking a similar transformation to address the pervasive and evolving cyber threat. This means enhancing the Cyber Division’s investigative capacity to sharpen its focus on intrusions into government and private computer networks.”