Threats of school violence are no joke

Glascock County Sheriff’s Office investigates message written on bathroom wall

Glascock County officers are still working to determine who wrote the words.

The county’s consolidated school was put on lock down last Thursday and students in grades five through 12 were walked through metal detectors after a message was found scrawled above a high school urinal that read, “I will shoot up the school.”

School Superintendent Jim Holton said that a student first discovered the threat and reported it to a teacher around 1 p.m. on Nov. 2.

The school resource officer, Josh McGahee, who took office about two months ago, contacted the sheriff and the school was put into lockdown within a matter of minutes.

“Lockdown involves every teacher locking their classroom doors and keeping their students in the classroom,” Holton said. “All students in grades 5 through 12 walked through a metal detector and the weapons service dogs searched the lockers and belongings left in the classrooms. Where there was anything suspicious we used a wand and we actually looked through a few bookbags.”

“It was probably less than seven bags,” Sheriff Jeremy Kelley said. “We didn’t find any weapons, any ammunition, nothing to indicate that anyone was in any position to be in any harm or danger.”

The entire event, from the report of the message to the final delayed dismissal at 3:50 p.m., the entire search took less than three hours the sheriff said.

Holton said that during the event the school sent out four messages to parents notifying them of the threat and the response to it.

“It was an effort between the Sheriff’s Office and the school to make sure that parents were abreast of what we were doing and an effort  to make them aware so they would feel safe knowing that we had things in place and they had as much real time information as they could have,” Kelley said.

The Glascock County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by Richmond County K-9 units, Georgia State Patrol, Department of Natural Resources game wardens and volunteer first responders and firefighters.

After a similar threat was made on social media in the spring led to a similar lockdown, the school system says it has been working to create plans to better communicate with parents.

During preplanning this fall, just before school began, Kelley said his office provided school staff with CRASE (Civilian Response to an Active Shooter Event) training.

“We taught it to the entire school staff and went over their lockdown procedure, providing them with knowledge to make decisions based on the options that they have,” Kelley said. “Sometimes the basic hunker down in place option is the best option. Sometimes it’s not.”

The school system also entered into an agreement with the county and the sheriff’s office this summer creating the new school resource officer position now held by McGahee. Kelley said that the officer has been a perfect fit for what both government agencies envisioned.

“He’s a good people person and works well with the students. He’s building a rapport with them that will rival that of our teachers,” Holton said. “He’s been a great liason between the sheriff’s office and the school.”

Holton said he was proud of all of his staff’s response last week.

“Just like anything in law enforcement, we have to prepare for the worst and hope and pray for the best,” Kelley said. “The investigation is still going on. No one has been charged at this point in time. We are going to see if we can do some handwriting analysis. If we can identify who did this, they will be charged with terroristic threats and acts because this is no joke. It is no laughing matter. This may be a small community, but the safety of our children is paramount to our sheriff’s office and the Glascock County School system.”

Anyone with information as to the origins of the threatening message written on the wall has been asked to bring it to the sheriff’s office or the school administrative staff.