Threat causes few problems; reminder for schools, staff

Staff Writer

A 17-year-old junior's threat to shoot up West Point High School Friday did not cause any problems with attendance or otherwise Friday, according to school Superintendent Burnell McDonald.

The student made the threat on the social media site Fun Run and was snared through monitoring by the FBI. Agents contacted local authorities Thursday morning and the student was confronted.

While his threat was an "isolated incident that was meant to be a joke," school leaders and law enforcement took it seriously.

He has been charged with threats to property and removed from school. Youth Court will handle the criminal charges against him.

West Point Police did not search the student's home after interviewing him and his parents.

"I appreciated the response we've had from parents and families," McDonald said. "I had a parent tell me his kids told him they weren't coming to school. He told them they were and they did.

"I had calls from some parents just checking to make sure everything was OK, they were just checking. They appreciated the way the situation was handled. We stress all the time that safety is our biggest concern," he continued.

"I made some inquiries, I gave it some thought as to what to do, especially after my son described it as an active shooter. But after I made some calls, it was evident the school district and law enforcement had it under control," said Amy Berry, whose son attends West Point High School.

"We didn't give it much thought. Once we heard the details Thursday night, we moved on. You can't start worrying about every little thing, you just can't," said Elise Stevens who has a niece who attends West Point schools.

The threat, combined with the fatal shooting of 17 people last week at a high school in Florida, were potent reminders for local school leaders, prompting security and safety reviews, as well as drills.

"All our principals are required to have regular lockdown drills and to go over situations with the staff. They understand the seriousness of it," McDonald stated.

School staffs also were reminded to practice and use the security measures, including locked doors and coded entries to make sure visitors have limited access and are identified.

At most schools, visitors must enter through a single door and in many cases, they only can get to an office with little immediate access beyond that point. In some cases, visitors must actually be let into the school electronically by school staff.

Resource officers also are on duty.

"We have a pretty good camera system in our schools. But no one is immune to something happening, no one is anymore. But I think our locking and access system makes our staffs feel a little safer," McDonald concluded.