In the aftermath of the tragedy that struck Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last month, a stream of hoax threats was received by school districts across the country. District officials took those threats very seriously, however, launching investigations and school lockdowns nationwide with the intent of protecting students at all costs. In Florida, threats made by a bank employee and a student both resulted in action by school and district officials. However, the handling of those threats raised the eyebrows – and the ire – of some of the individuals involved.
Threats Circulate Social Networks
WLRN reports that a number of phony threats surfaced in Florida shortly after the Connecticut shootings. Many of those threats were circulated on social websites like Facebook, according to some of the students that reported the threats. However, officials were unable to verify the threats through this medium, since the posts appear to have been deleted before officers were alerted. At least a portion of those threats were posed against schools in Coral Springs, Pompano Beach and Davie.
WOGX also reported on threats received throughout the state, in the counties of Brevard, Seminole, Orange, and Volusia. At one prep school in Orlando, authorities were called when a woman carried a sword onto school property. Police departments across the state said that every threat received was taken very seriously in light of recent events in Connecticut. That meant several area schools went on lockdown as a result of the threats, and police officers were called to multiple locations as a precaution.
This video reports on the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.
Brevard County Schools Locked After Threat by Bank Employee
One district that locked down a number of its schools in the days after the Sandy Hook incident was Brevard County. District officials responded to threat made by an employee of a local credit union, who stated he would make the “bank look worse than the school in Connecticut.” Although the threat was not made directly against any Brevard public schools, Vic DeSantis, a sheriff with Brevard County, told Florida Today that the district ordered the lockdown on five elementary schools in the area.
While the lockdown was strictly precautionary, frightened parents of some of the students at the schools complained about the way the process was handled. Florida Today reports that teachers were notified of the lockdown by email, which meant teachers that did not check their computers during that time were unaware a lockdown had been issued. While district officials stated the proper procedures for the lockdown were followed, they did promise to look into the current procedure to determine whether changes should be made.
“Generally, how a lockdown works, if district security puts a school on lockdown, then the principal directs the staff,” Michelle Irwin, a spokesperson for Brevard County Schools, explained to Florida Today. Irwin added that the recent lockdown was classified as a “secure in place,” which meant that while the exterior doors to the school were locked, students and staff were able to move about freely inside.
High Schools Brace for Students Carrying Weapons
Two high schools in Florida also received reports that a student was planning to bring a weapon into the schools. According to Local 10, Davies police investigated reports that a student was going to bring a weapon into Western High School in Broward County. Another investigation was launched when students reported a threat by another student of a possible shooting at DeLand High School in Volusia County. Students said the threat was posted on Facebook but was deleted before authorities began their investigation.
In response to concerns over these threats, Broward County issued the following statement, which was posted at Local 10:
“In the days following the school shootings in Connecticut, school districts across the country have received hoax threats at schools. Broward District School Police report there have been rumors of violence circulating through social media in several Broward County public schools. In every case, no substantive information has been found to give credibility to any of these threats.”
Increased Police Presence at Some Florida Schools
While district officials have done their best to assuage some of the concerns felt by parents and students in recent weeks, fear is still high at many schools. Broward and Palm Beach Counties have taken additional steps to maintain safety and quell worries by increasing police presence in and around their schools. While questions remain about the permanence of the police presence, reaction to the officers has been mixed, according to a report at the Sun-Sentinel.
Some parents want the addition of police at schools to become permanent, citing the importance of protecting the children of the community as a top priority for local governments and their budgets. However, other parents voiced doubts as to whether a police presence would effectively stop an intruder who was bent on harming children and school staff. Some have expressed concern that more police could result in more arrests of children for relatively minor violations on school grounds.
While some parents debated the necessity of police in schools, others considered additional security measures to prevent another tragedy from occurring. Some expressed a desire for additional security drills by school staff, while others considered locking exterior doors and installing other security measures.
The talk over security and protecting students has run rampant nationwide since the Connecticut shooting. As time and distance eventually heal the gaping wounds left by the Sandy Hook rampage, one thought remains – the perception of safety in public schools has changed now and forever more.
Questions? Contact us on Facebook. @publicschoolreview