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TUESDAY TALK: Middle school student could face criminal charges for emoji use

This screen shot made Thursday, April 9, 2015 on an iPhone 6 shows some of the new emojis available with the iOS 8.3 software update. The batch of more than 300 new emojis includes ones different skin tones and depictions of families with two moms or two dads. (AP Photo)

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) They're called emojis. You can find them next to letters when you're typing a text, and just like words they have meaning.

But the message that showed up on Olivia Womble's phone wasn't as nice.

"Kids on Instagram were getting like death threats, like using emojis. I think it was a skull and a bomb and a gun," said Womble.

The eighth grader attends Sidney Lanier Middle School in Fairfax.

It was a few months ago, but we are just learning a student used what Fairfax Police believed was threatening emojis on her Instagram account.

"I blocked them so I didn't see their stuff, they couldn't see mine," said Womble.

The news spread and a letter went out to parents.

"We became aware of a potential threat directed at our school that was posted on social media," Principal Erin Lenart said. "Fairfax City Police identified and interviewed the individual who posted the threat and determined the threat is not credible. The police investigation revealed that the individual who posted the threat used another person's name in an attempt to get that person into trouble."

The situation has been handed over to the Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney.

Womble's mother is an investigator of her phone and her social media accounts.

"Knowing her password and checking behind her to see what she's sending, who she's sending from, checking my Verizon account at the end of the month to see who's she's been texting, how late she's been up," said Melissa Batchelor Murphy. "If anything is inappropriate, they're taken away."

No word on what disciplinary actions, if any, were taken against the student.

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