A video about the warning signs of gun violence was part of a social media post that triggered a state police investigation in Montgomery County monday and prompted Upper Perkiomen school district to cancel classes.
The public service announcement called “Evan” was put out by Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit started by families of the victims of the 2012 school shooting, and starts out telling the story of two teens who become pen pals of sorts, writing notes to each other on a library desk.
But the moment they finally meet while signing yearbooks, there’s a chilling twist: another student who has been in the background of the ad the entire time, but goes unnoticed by most viewers, suddenly appears in the school gym, cocking a rifle.
This is the image that appears in an anonymous Instagram posting from Sunday night by the user “upperperkiscool” along with the words “see you next year,” according to a screen shots obtained by WHYY and confirmed as authentic by state police.
The poster later updated the message to claim that it was “not a threat.”
In a subsequent post at 6:30 a.m. Monday, the user addresses Upper Perkiomen superintendent Alexis McGloin and wriote that the post “was misunderstood by few students who viewed it.”
“The caption on this video on Instagram originally read something along the lines of ‘see you next year. if you’re still alive’ and was meant to be a play on what the subject of the video had written in the yearbook,” the post reads.
State police were notified of the Instagram post at 1:15 Monday morning. Investigators worked to recover the original post, which had been taken down.
In a letter to parents Monday afternoon, McGloin said state troopers have identified the source of the post and there is no longer a credible threat to students. Classes will be back in session on Tuesday.
“We ask that you please discuss the day’s events with your child, emphasizing the seriousness of this situation and the impact their on-line interactions can have on themselves, their friends, family and community,” McGloin wrote.
“Maybe it was somebody who was playing some kind of inappropriate joke or maybe it was a cry for help,” said Shira Goodman with anti-gunviolence organization Ceasefire PA.
Goodman said while nothing is known about the intent of the post, those who responded to it did just as the Sandy Hook Promise ad is encouraging them to do.
“Sometimes people are afraid to over-react or to misinterpret,” she said. “When they look back maybe they realize there was a sign and what’s so powerful about the video is again, if you’re paying attention to the wrong thing you miss all these signs.”
Kayla Horger, who has a 5-year-old in the Upper Perkiomen schools, said she believes administrators made the right call to close schools for the day.
“Our kids’ safety is first always,” she said. “Even a small hint of a threat or feeling like it may be threatening calls for action that is best for the students and staff.”