Following a week of threats disrupting schools in the local area in the wake of the Valentine’s Day shooting deaths of 17 teachers and students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Fla., Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman said every threat, no matter how minor, will be investigated. He said he is telling anyone who will listen that parents need to pay attention to what their children are doing, especially when it comes to social media.
“We are operating a zero tolerance policy when it comes to threats being made. If we have any knowledge whatsoever of a threat, the student will be picked up and transported to Walton County Juvenile Court and the courts will decide what to do,” Chapman said. “The school will not have any say so in the matter at all as long as we know about it.”
Chapman said since the shooting in Florida, there have been several reports of threats and two students in the local area have been detained as a result. Other threats have been determined to have no real merit. There was a heavy police presence at Monroe schools on Monday after a student had spent the weekend in the juvenile detention center following a Snapchat threat, and a school bus from Loganville Middle School was stopped and a student briefly detained Wednesday following concerns of a threat.
“It was put out that the child was simulating that he had a firearm, but that wasn’t the case, probably just some poor judgement,” Chapman said.
Georgia State Patrol Trooper First Class Cal Barton made the stop after the bus driver alerted that the student allegedly repeated several times that he had a gun. He was removed from the bus and after a search revealed no weapon, he was turned over to his mother. Loganville Police Department responded since the bus stopped at Line and Logan Streets, but Chapman said WCSO is investigating it as the student was from Loganville Middle School, which is in the county. The School Resource Officer at LMS is from WCSO.
The latest threat in Walton County came Thursday from Social Circle Elementary School.
“Someone wrote on a bathroom wall that the school was going to blow up,” Chapman said, adding it is not yet known who wrote it. “We are still investigating that right now. We don’t know at this time.”
Schools around the country have been dealing with similar situations, with Gwinnett County Police in the Loganville area handling threats from Covenant Christian School, Grayson High School, South Gwinnett and Archer High School. Chapman said it is a different world today and social media is contributing to some of the challenges schools and law enforcement are facing.
“There is a lot of hysteria out there right now, but we are not taking any chances. It is disruptive to law enforcement and to the schools, but we are going to respond to everything that we hear about,” Chapman said.