Parents can be seen picking up children from Helen Cox High School after confusion over a threat to the school that the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office said was debunked days before in Harvey, Louisiana. in Gretna, La., Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018.

One student in Jefferson Parish allegedly turned up in a picture on social media next to the caption, “future school shooter.”

In New Orleans, officials said, a teenager made threatening statements on Instagram about students and staff at Dr. King Charter School. 

Whether it is a coincidental uptick or the result of heightened vigilance on the part of residents and law enforcement in the wake of last week's deadly mass shooting in Florida, at least four young men have been arrested in the New Orleans metro area this week on allegations of making school-related threats. At least two other teens were cited for non-criminal offenses following similar allegations.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto said his agency's policies on when to act in the case of social media posts or other threats haven't changed since the Florida shooting. But he acknowledged that the number of recent complaints has been “extreme.”

“Generally speaking, we get complaints once, twice a month,” he said. “Today, we had four different instances. I believe the Florida school shooting had a lot to do with that because for the last 72 hours, that’s what everybody sees.”

Still, it is no surprise that local law enforcement officials are taking online threats seriously.

The FBI is facing intense criticism for taking no action after it received tips indicating that 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz could be a threat before he attacked students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14. 

Someone had posted a YouTube comment under Cruz's name saying, "I'm going to be a professional school shooter," and the FBI also received a call to a public tip line warning that Cruz had made disturbing social media posts and there was concern he could commit a school shooting. 

Caroline Roemer, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, said authorities were right to intervene swiftly in the local cases. 

But Roemer also said it would be important to follow up with more than punitive measures for the students involved, especially if any of them need serious mental health treatment that they aren't receiving. 

“As a mom, I want to know that my child is in a school community in which he's safe in the classroom,” said Roemer, whose own son is in the fourth grade. “But that shouldn’t always mean … that a student should simply be put out of school or the classroom for long periods of time.”

Two of the recent cases were reported in New Orleans, where the students accused of making the threats were booked as adults because they are 18.

Police said they arrested Janero Copelin on Wednesday after learning that he allegedly posted content on Instagram that threatened the staff and student body at Dr. King School, in the Lower 9th Ward. Officials said Copelin told investigators he meant to intimidate a specific person attending the school.

A day later, police said they arrested Noah Berry after they were told he made a “possible” shooting threat toward Warren Easton High School in Mid-City, which he attends.

Berry and Copelin face counts of terrorizing, or making the public believe a violent crime is imminent so as to instill fear. In Louisiana, that can carry up to 15 years in prison. 

Meanwhile, in Jefferson, deputies accused four minors of similar behavior.

Two boys who attend Grace King High School in Metairie were arrested Thursday after a photograph surfaced on social media depicting one of them in front of a drawing captioned, “future school shooter,” the Sheriff’s Office said. Both denied they intended to follow through with any violence, but they were booked on the juvenile equivalent of terrorizing, officials said.

Deputies on Thursday also gave a non-criminal citation to a student at John Martyn Alternative School in Jefferson who was accused of telling a bus driver that he wanted to grow up to be a school shooter.

Two days earlier, a boy at Helen Cox High School in Harvey received a similar citation after reports of a "threatening gesture" toward another student and possibly the school.

Crimestoppers received another tip about the same incident on Wednesday, leading to incorrect reports on Thursday that Cox was on lockdown while it dealt with a threat, officials said.

Ricky Johnson, a Jefferson Parish School Board member whose district includes Helen Cox and whose daughter attends the school, said people there were on edge. A number of parents took their kids out of the school Thursday morning, and Johnson said he was relieved to learn reports of a lockdown were wrong.

“Everybody’s trying to figure out what’s going on with kids these days,” he said. “I’m trying to think about why kids would say anything like that, or put it out.”

Adding to the jitters, a threatening social media post originating in Ohio prompted police in New Orleans and Slidell to say there were no credible threats at local schools that had identical or similar initials to ones mentioned in the post.

Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal said it is important to report concerns of violence to the right officials rather than to share information on social media, which often fuels anxiety. 

He said his department was considering assigning so-called school resource officers to guard elementary school campuses in Slidell.

Other officials, though, have said that isn't a cure-all, noting that the school in Parkland had two such officers. 

Staff writer Sara Pagones contributed to this report. 

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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