Unfounded Threat Briefly Lifts Flagler Schools’ Status to Yellow, Increasing Cop Presence
FlaglerLive | January 26, 2016
An unfounded threat reported third-hand to school officials this morning prompted the district to raise its security status to yellow as sheriff’s deputies were dispersed to each of the district’s 11 schools. Students in some schools noticed the increased presence and chatted through social media about bomb threats, but that chatter, too, was unfounded.
No classes were disrupted, no evacuations or lock-downs required as all school activities carried on normally. Shortly after 10 a.m. district officials announced that the yellow status would soon revert back to green.
“Apparently a parent contacted Dusty Sims about something she’d heard about possible violent acts against a school, did not have a specific school,” Jason Wheeler, the district’s chief spokesman, said this morning, referring to the principal at Flagler Palm Coast High School. The sheriff’s office, he said, traced back the call to a parent who’d heard of the alleged threat third-hand. The source of the fear was an outdated posting on social media, also suggesting a vague threat, also unfounded.
But such postings have from time to time re-emerged and been misinterpreted, or taken out of their date’s context, forcing school officials to react accordingly. Leon County schools this week had a related threat, spread on Sunday, though up there–in the Panhandle–some 2,000 middle and high school students stayed home on Monday. In that case, the Tallahassee Democrat reported, “four schools received separate threats of violence posted through social media accounts,” mostly Instagram.
In Flagler, “deputies did their due diligence and no threat was determined to be valid so we should be going back to green status later this morning,” Wheeler said. The deputy presence at the schools did not include searches of classrooms, lockers or facilities, as that was determined not to be necessary. A sheriff’s spokesman referred a call to Wheeler.
“Of course we can’t not investigate a threat,” Wheeler said, “that’s how our protocol worked.”
Shortly after 10 a.m. Wheeler issued a release quoting Superintendent Jacob Oliva as saying: “Student safety is of utmost importance to us and we are taking every necessary step to ensure that safety is not compromised. We also remind parents of the Sheriff’s Office campaign of ‘See Something, Say Something,’ reporting any suspicious activity to proper authorities. Our thanks also go out to the Sheriff’s Office for their quick work on this case. Our planning, training and cooperation paid off as we all acted quickly to address the unfounded threat.”
The “See Something, Say Something” campaign, started in New York City in the wake of the September 2011 attacks, revived in 2011 by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and again refreshed last year, should not, however, be interpreted as license to prejudicially finger the activities or presence of certain individuals whose color, creed or demeanor may not necessarily conform with that of their overanxious or misinformed accuser.