One person is in custody and another has been charged after threats were made toward local high schools.
Law enforcement officials say they’re going to aggressively pursue all threats toward schools.
“This will not be tolerated for one second,” Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said.
“Once this type of threat was made, we began searching for the one who made it. After the horrific incident involving a fatal shooting last week in Florida, this made this type of threat even more heinous,” he added.
A 24-year-old man is in custody for allegedly threatening to shoot up Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.
In St. Matthews, a 17-year-old student faces a misdemeanor charge for allegedly stating, “It’s about to be a school shooting” at Calhoun County High School.
On Wednesday morning, North Middle High School Principal Matt Schilit sent messages to parents stating the school received a similar threat.
Throughout the nation and state, schools are facing an uptick in threats of violence in the wake of the Feb. 14 killing of 17 teachers and students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
A lone gunman, who was familiar with the school, opened fire in the hallways and a few classrooms.
The Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office and Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 say they were made aware of a Facebook post that threatened violence at O-W High School at about 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Ravenell said that investigators, U.S. Secret Service agents and U.S. Marshals began to immediately search for the perpetrator who made a social media post threatening to “shoot up OW TOMORROW AT 725 AM.”
“We’ve been tracking this individual and searching his most visited locations through the county since a few minutes after the threat was received,” Ravenell said.
“We finally located him at 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday.”
Although the threat ended with the apprehension of the suspect, deputies reported to O-W High School on Wednesday morning to reassure parents, students and school staff that they were protected, the sheriff said.
“We don’t believe there is any further threat,” Ravenell said. “The individual acted alone.”
The suspect, a 24-year-old Orangeburg man, is tentatively scheduled to appear in bond court on Thursday afternoon. No charges have been announced against him.
Ravenell said he is, “disappointed and angered someone would do this here in our community.”
OCSD5 spokesman Bill Clark said, “On behalf of our students, parents and staff, the district would like to express our gratitude to the various law enforcement agencies who responded to the social media threat that was directed toward Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.”
There were higher-than-usual rates of absenteeism at O-W on Wednesday, Clark said.
“We understand the reasons behind it,” he added. “Social media threats are serious matters, but the quick response and ongoing commitment from our law enforcement partners working with our district personnel should help to address these concerns going forward.”
There was also an incident at Lake Marion High School on Tuesday.
A student at the Tee Vee Road school claimed that another student had a gun on campus. School administration and the school’s resource officer quickly addressed the concern and determined the student did not have a gun.
A 17-year-old Calhoun County High School student is facing the charge of disturbing schools.
According to an incident report, Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office deputies took the teen into custody on Monday just after 1 p.m.
An incident report states that the teen was asleep in class and a teacher called on him to answer a question.
The teacher said the student did not know how to respond because he was asleep and became angry, the report states.
“It’s about to be a school shooting in here, you just don’t know when,” the student allegedly said in the class.
Other students in the class became upset, the report states.
One of the students asked the teen to repeat his statement and he said it again, according to the report.
“The teacher heard the statement and called for an administrator to report to her classroom,” the report states.
Deputies searched the teen’s locker and vehicle and did not find anything that could be used as a weapon.
The report states that the school administration suspended the teen and recommended him for an expulsion hearing.
The investigation is ongoing.
If convicted of a misdemeanor charge of disrupting the school, he faces a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail.
“In Calhoun County, we take these threats very seriously,” Calhoun County Sheriff Thomas Summers said.
George Kierman, human resources director at the Calhoun County School District, said, “We have a school resource officer assigned to each school.”
“We take every threat seriously,” he said. “Safety is our number one concern.”
In Bamberg County, Sheriff Ed Darnell said his department hasn’t received any notifications of any threats in the local schools.
“We’ve got to do everything that we can to protect our children, but a lot of that begins at home,” he said.
“Parents need to talk to their children and tell them these things,” he added. “They need to know where their children are when they get home from school and what they’re doing. They do not need to be walking in the streets.”
Darnell said it is imperative that students, teachers, parents and the community report any unusual behavior immediately to law enforcement.
“By the time 911 is called, it’s over with,” Darnell said.
“Everyone needs to be alert, not only in our schools but in our churches and streets,” he added.
S.C. Department of Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said Wednesday the state will review all student and school safety policies and procedures to identify any areas that need to improve.
“If you see or hear something, say something. Many potentially dangerous situations across our state and nation have been avoided because a parent, student or teacher alerted proper authorities,” she said.