Last Updated: 3:25 p.m.
All Flagler Palm Coast High School students–all 2,600 of them–were diverted to the school’s stadium this morning after a bomb threat was discovered in a school bathroom around 7 a.m. The threat was cleared at 8 a.m.
“School security was doing their walk-through before students arrived, they located some graffiti on a bathroom that mentioned today’s date and that there was a threat to the school,” Brittany Kershaw, the Flagler County Sheriff’s spokesperson, said.
“The administration has not allowed anyone in the building. They are doing a sweep of the school, if they locate anything they’d like the sheriff’s office to respond they’ll ask for our explosive detection K-9 unit.”
For now–as of 7:45 a.m.–the sheriff’s office’s personnel had not been requested. “They haven’t asked the sheriff’s office to do the sweep, school administrators are doing it,” Kershaw said. “It’s really the school’s call so we’re respecting their decision to do the walk-through. Our guys are on standby if they want us in there, but initially the schools are taking care of it themselves.”
There will be an increased sheriff’s presence at the school today.
The threat was found in a single bathroom and has already been cleaned up.
By 8 o’clock, around the time of the first class, students were being directed back into the school.
Jason Wheeler, a spokesperson for the district, said sheriff’s personnel was involved in the sweep alongside school personnel. “They came in and swept the school with our security personnel,” he said. “School was clear, everyone is back in.” (It was later clarified that deputies were not involved beyond the one school resource deputy usually assigned to FPC.)
He said no one was being sent back home, either from school or at the gate, though several parents were claiming that to be the case on social media, and witnesses at the scene were reporting that numerous students were walking back to their cars in Town Center or walking out that way.
Some students and parents were reporting that they were, in fact, explicitly turned away at the gate, contrary to the district’s official claims. “A couple of my friends were told that too,” one student who drove in and was told to turn away at the gate told FlaglerLive, describing teachers “running up to cars” and directing them out.
“If parents call the school, students can leave,” one parent told FlaglerLive. That’s routinely the case: the school will not keep parents from pulling their children out of school if they so wish, though it appeared many students were making the decision themselves, and attendance was likely not going to be that of a normal Friday.
The school day is being adjusted: classes will begin at 8:30 instead of 8, giving students time to get breakfast if they wish. Meanwhile officials are to examine school security video. “We’re examining everything,” Wheeler said. He could only say that the graffiti wasn’t sprayed this morning.
School Superintendent Jim Tager went to the school soon after the threat was reported. “I’m on campus, came here as soon as I heard, everything is going very well right now,” Tager said at 8:20 as he stood outside the school with sheriff’s deputies, soon after the issue was resolved. “Kids are having breakfast, everything is business as usual.” He credited security and sheriff’s personnel for handling the situation swiftly. “They did a great job. We haven’t had one of these, hopefully they’re going to find the person that initiated it by writing on a bathroom stall.”
In the overwhelming majority of cases, if not in their totality–there has not been an actual bomb explosion in an American school in recent memory, the last one in a public school dating back to 1959 in Texas–bomb threats in schools, while not infrequent, are hoaxes.
“Since Parkland I’ve lost my sense of humor and anything along these line is arrestable, and Sheriff Staly feels the same way,” Tager said.
But there were two distinctly different accounts of the security sweep. Wheeler said deputies were involved. Kershaw said they were not.
“I was there and I saw them walking the hallways as part of the security sweep,” Wheeler said at 9 a.m., referring to one section of the campus, though he did not know to what extent the deputies were involved beyond that, or whether there had been a request by the administration to let the administration handle it.
“We were on campus, they had deputies out in the stadium while the kids were out there just for security,” Kershaw said at 9 a.m., “but the sweep of the school I just confirmed with Commander Reynolds was completed by school administrators.” Soon afterward she clarified the confusion: “We had one of the SRD’s at the high school accompany the security team during the sweep of the school. Our SRD, Jason Williams, who is one of the SRDs for the school,” Kershaw said, referring to the school resource deputy assigned to FPC. He he was with the security team during the search. “Still no K-9 or anything like that,” she said–and she confirmed that the administration requested that deputies not get involved beyond that, unless something suspicious was discovered.
Wheeler confirmed, saying additional sheriff’s personnel worked “the perimeter of campus since all our faculty security were working inside.”
The district posted the following message on its Facebook page around 8 a.m., and disseminated it through a robocall to FPC’s community:
As school personnel was preparing to open Flagler Palm Coast High School this morning, they discovered graffiti making a threat against the school. Since students were not yet in the school, it was decided to keep everyone out of the buildings until school security crews and the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office could conduct a sweep of the campus. The stadium was searched first, so that there was a place for arriving students to be held while the rest of the campus was searched. Nothing was found during that sweep.
Just before 8:00 the school was cleared and students were allowed back into the building. The schedule has been delayed by 1/2 hour to give students the opportunity to eat a quick breakfast in the cafeteria. The first period will be adjusted.
School security personnel are reviewing all video to try to identify the person who wrote the threat. We will also have increased security on campus as a precaution. As always, if anyone has any information about this threat, they are asked to report it immediately, either by contacting a teacher or administrator or through the “See Something, Say Something” section on the Flagler Schools website. Additionally, a report can be made through the FortifyFL app.