Sheriff’s office, schools well equipped to handle threats

Published 8:01 pm Thursday, August 23, 2018

Earlier this week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced a new partnership with two of North Carolina’s largest school systems in an effort to educate the public on the dangers of making threatening statements against schools online. The message is clear: think before you post.

As students return to school in Beaufort County on Monday, parents can rest assured that they will be well protected. According to Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Charlie Rose, lines of communication between the sheriff’s office and Beaufort County Schools remain constantly open when it comes to dealing with threats to the school system.

“Anytime a threat comes down, there’s usually a pretty short duration of time between us getting the information and making contact with the superintendent’s office,” Rose said.

Local responses

Last semester, BCS and the BCSO worked together to address two potential threats to the school system. The first, in February, was the result of the panicked circulation of a social media post that originated outside of the state.

“The thing that we’ve run into is that there are a lot of things that have been posted on the internet that will then get reposted again and again,” Rose said. “So we’ll see things that are posted in another part of the country where we’re trying to get information on.”

The second, which came about in April, originated on social media as well, when a 15-year-old Washington High School student threatened in a post that he was going to shoot up the school the following day. After learning of the threat at approximately 11 p.m. on April 26, the BCSO was able to locate and detain the student the following morning.

The consequences were severe. The student was charged with one count of making a false report concerning mass violence on educational property, a class H felony. Disciplinary action by the school system, which is not disclosed as a matter of policy, could have ranged from long-term suspension to expulsion, according to the BCS Student Code of Conduct.

Fortunately, neither of the threats made proved to be credible. For law enforcement and the school system, Rose says that every threat must be treated as though it is possible.

“We’re looking to either prove or disprove as quickly as we can,” Rose said. “When we get information, we have to take it at face value.”

As an added layer of protection, the BCSO will be adding deputies as school resource officers at each public Beaufort County School throughout the year. Thus far, Rose says that 10 of the 13 positions funded by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners have been filled.

Tips from the FBI

According to an FBI release on the #Thinkbeforeyoupost campaign, the purpose is to, “educate the public on the consequences of posting hoax threats to schools and other public places and reminds communities that these hoax threats are not a joke.”

In addition to the unnecessary strain placed on law enforcement agencies by such threats, the FBI release says that these instances waste immense amounts of taxpayer dollars and create fear in communities.

The FBI offers the following tips to the public for dealing with threats:

  • Don’t ever post or send any hoax threats … period.
  • If you are a target of an online threat, alert your local law enforcement immediately.
  • If you see a threat of violence posted on social media, immediately contact local law enforcement or your local FBI office.
  • Notify authorities, but don’t share or forward the threat until law enforcement has had a chance to investigate — this can spread misinformation and cause panic.
  • If you are a parent or family member, know that some young people post these threats online as a cry for attention or as a way to get revenge or exert control. Talk to your child about the proper outlet for their stress or other emotions, and explain the importance of responsible social media use and the consequences of posting hoax threats.