METHUEN — The 12-year-old boy who police say threatened to commit a school shooting on Monday has entered a diversion program through the Essex district attorney's office, instead of going through the court system to face charges.

The boy, whose name has not been released because he is a juvenile, was arrested Monday and charged with making threats to a school and threatening to commit murder, after he posted on Instagram that he would "shoot up" the Tenney Grammar School and referenced a "specific school employee as a target," according to police.

Carrie Kimball, spokesperson with District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's office, did not speak specifically about the case, but said the program offers juveniles an opportunity to complete a program that includes counseling or community service in lieu of prosecution through the court system.

Generally, juveniles are eligible for the diversion program if they are first-time, nonviolent offenders under the age of 21.

"They sign a contract with the district attorney's office that says they will complete whatever it is we come up with for them, as far as counseling or community service, or what have you, and they are given a specific amount of time in which to complete it," she said. "If they do not, they will be brought to court and arraigned on the charges. If they do successfully complete it, then the charge is dismissed."

The threat came in as a response to the school's official Instagram account on Monday, and students and parents reported the threat.

An investigation led police to the juvenile's home, where they conducted a search with a K-9 officer before placing him under arrest. No weapons were found at the home.

Police Chief Joseph Solomon said Tuesday the immediate and massive police response was justified, given the specific nature of the threat.

"This was much more specific of a threat than we've had in a long time," he said. "Because it's on social media, it spreads like wildfire. We're very glad so many students reported it to parents ... and the schools called us right away. We did it right."

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