Don't 'friend' any unknown clowns online, say St. Paul schools

This is not the clown in question. Here, Tim Curry shown as Pennywise in a 1990 TV adaptation of Stephen King's "It."
The Kobal Collection, via NPR

One of the largest school districts in Minnesota has joined others around the country in warning parents and students to stay away from the creepy clown trend sweeping social media.

"Please remind your children to never accept a friend request from an unknown person (or clown) on social media," St. Paul Public Schools posted on Twitter and Facebook Tuesday afternoon.

The district's statement comes after a rash of threats from people posing as scary clowns on the internet and several sightings of them in the Twin Cities metro area.

It's unclear how this social media trend began, but the fear of clowns dates back before the internet, said St. Paul Clown Club member Denise Chapeau.

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"There will always be people who are afraid of clowns. I was afraid of clowns when I was younger. Now I'm a clown," Chapeau said.

Chapeau said the clown threats on social media "saddens my heart."

Over the past few days similar accounts were reported in Farmington, Shakopee and Anoka County and in many other states around the country.

Police arrested a 15-year-old Bloomington girl on Wednesday, after they said she created a fake Facebook account for "Kroacky Klown" from her sister's phone. The post, which threatened to "kill" people in several towns in Minnesota, including Hopkins, went viral Tuesday.

The girl told police the threats were meant to scare her boyfriend but got out of hand quickly.

Police warned parents and students the craze could land them in trouble.

"There could be a variety of charges to look at by obviously one of the possibilities is terroristic threats," said Mike Glassberg, Hopkins police public information officer.

A terroristic threat is a felony in Minnesota and could result in up to five years in prison.

Hopkins police urged parents to talk to their kids about the seriousness of these threats, which they expect will increase as Halloween nears.