Authorities say they investigated reports of threatened shootings at two Iredell high schools this week, one of which turned out to be a misunderstanding and a second that led to the arrest of a student.
The scares came in the days after a student was fatally shot at a high school in Matthews. A student was charged with murder and accused of bringing a stolen gun onto the Butler High School campus.
West Iredell student charged
A student at West Iredell High School threatened violence against a teacher during fourth block on Tuesday, Iredell-Statesville Schools said Thursday on Facebook.
The Facebook post said the student “became agitated when a teacher called him down and redirected him.”
In response, the male 14-year-old said he would bring a gun to school and “settle the issue,” the post said.
According to the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office, a number of students overheard the student say he would bring a Glock to school and use it.
The threat was brought to the attention of a school resource officer Wednesday, the sheriff’s office said.
In a press release Friday, the sheriff’s office said deputies spoke to witnesses. The suspect, who wasn’t named because he is considered a juvenile in the court system, was charged with a felony count of making a false report concerning mass violence on educational property.
The student did not have a gun on campus, the sheriff’s office said.
“This case is a shining example of how well we work with the school system and how quickly situations like this can be handled when the proper assets are in place,” Iredell Sheriff Darren Campbell said in a statement about the arrest. “I want to be absolutely clear, we will not tolerate any threats or acts of violence to students or staff members in the school system.”
The student was suspended for 10 days and was recommended for a long-term suspension.
Rumors spread confusion
West Iredell told parents about the incident over the Connect-Ed phone notification system. In the hours and days after the arrest, a number of rumors began circulating on social media, officials say.
“A snapchat referencing the Connect-Ed call was shared on Wednesday evening that began a string of rumors, causing anxiety for students, and prompting parents to keep their kids home today, check their kids out early this (morning), and call schools this morning inquiring about safety across the district,” the school system wrote on Facebook Thursday.
“Given the most recent events in schools across the country, our school communities are hypersensitive to this issue, and understandably so,” the post continued before ending with, “Your child’s safety is our #1 priority.”
In a separate incident Thursday at South Iredell High School, officials said reports about an overheard conversation snowballed into claims that there would be a school shooting on Friday, even though no such threat had been made.
According to an ISS press release sent on Friday, students overheard three teens talk about plans they had during lunch on Friday at South Iredell High. The plans reportedly included a “disruption,” and the students reportedly said that they had to figure out how to get something into the school.
According to Lt. Darrin Payne with the Troutman Police Department, an investigation later determined the students were planning a surprise birthday party for a student, and that they were trying to get food and other party items to school without the friend noticing.
But the students who heard the conversation didn’t know what was happening and told their parents, who informed the school, who told law enforcement, according to a message from Principal Tim Ivey posted to Facebook late Friday afternoon.
“It blew up from there,” Payne said. “It spread like wildfire after that. You know people don’t have the whole story.”
Students shared on social media, including Snapchat, claims that there would be a shooting at school Friday.
But the school district decided to operate on a normal schedule Friday. In Friday’s press release, the school did not mention that there was no threat on campus.
Multiple parents reportedly kept students at home. Ivey said all absences on Friday will be excused.
“We want to thank all the students and families for their concern about school safety,” Ivey wrote. “We appreciate everyone who came forward with information and want to keep those lines of communication open so that we can continue to provide a safe and welcoming learning environment.”