Police investigating reports of threats made to local schools; 2 arrests made

(Photo courtesy of Hampton City Schools website)

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Local police departments are investigating a series of threats made to a handful of different schools, including two threats that led to an arrest.

File image of Lake Taylor Middle School in Norfolk. (Courtesy: Norfolk Public Schools).

Two Hampton Roads middle schoolers have been charged in 24 hours in connection to threatening social media posts.

Police arrested a Lake Taylor Middle School student after police say he made a threatening social media post about wanting to shoot students at the school on Tuesday. The 14-year-old boy has been charged with a class 6 felony in connection to the threats.

Schools spokesperson Khalilah LeGrand said principals from Lake Taylor High and Middle made a Blackboard Connect call to parents in order to “quell fears” around the threat.

Officers also worked with security staff from Norfolk Public Schools on Monday in an effort to ensure the safety of the students.

Norfolk Public Schools is aware of a disturbing social media post circulating about Lake Taylor Middle School. We take any threat such as this seriously and are working closely with Norfolk PD as this matter is investigated.

Parents are encouraged to speak to their children about the very serious nature of making threats as students found to have done this will be subject to appropriate disciplinary and legal actions.

Police also charged a Virginia Beach Middle School student on Monday for threats made on social media, according to Virginia Beach Public Schools officials.

“It can happen anywhere at any time unfortunately,” said Gary Rotfus, Virginia Beach Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  “This is something that any high school student has to see that could happen at their school.”

It’s scary for kids, but the reality is they have to go school.

“The best you can do is try to explain that when you look at all the schools in the country that this is unlikely to occur at any given school, but the reality is that is does happen,” Rotfus added.

Hampton police said they were alerted to a possible threat for Monday at Bethel High School — and similar threats circulating on social media about Kecoughtan High School.

The threat for Bethel was found to have been not credible, and according to police, no information has made the threat against Kecoughtan credible either.

Security has been increased at both schools as a precaution. Hampton police issued the following statement Monday morning concerning the threats:

With the speed of social media, rumors and inaccurate information can spread very quickly. While social media can also be very helpful at times, this appears to be two incidents where it was not. We encourage all parents to talk with their children regarding the proper utilization of social media as well monitoring their children’s social media usage for accountability purposes.

For those who are unaware, Hampton City Schools has a Safe School Hotline. This phone line has been installed to receive calls 24 hours a day from students, parents, or concerned citizens who have information about potentially dangerous activity on school grounds or school-related activities. We highly encourage our community to use this hotline when they feel there is a concern. The Safe School Hotline is 757-727-2255.

Several 10 On Your Side viewers noted the threats in Hampton and Norfolk Monday morning.

“It’s very predictable,” Rotfus said.  “Somebody who feels disenfranchised or is angry or out of control with their own life; this is where they are getting power and control.  This is what it’s all about.”

Suffolk Public Schools administrators were also made aware of threatening post on Instagram believed to be connected to schools in the district.

Nansemond River High School’s principal, Daniel O’Leary Jr., noted in a letter that authorities have not been able to authenticate the validity of the post, which featured a file photo of the high school. He added that extra police would be in place.

Lakeland High Schools’ principal, Douglas D. Wagoner, said that Lakeland wasn’t specifically mentioned in the Instagram threats, but a modified “less specific” threat was sent to the school around the same time the Instagram threats were reported. He says the Suffolk Police Department will conduct a full investigation into the threats and extra police presence will be placed at district schools Tuesday.

The reported threats come days after possible threats were made to schools in Southampton County and Elizabeth City.

Officials with Gates County Public Schools said Monday they were made aware of a threat posted on social media. Superintendent Dr. Barry Williams said he alerted the sheriff’s office, which is now investigating.

A spokesperson with the sheriff’s office said all schools in Gates County were placed on lockdown because of the threat.