More than a dozen students arrested amid reported school threats

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UPDATE: Police say a Lynnhaven Middle School student was arrested Thursday in Virginia Beach and police are investigating a threat made toward Woodside High School in Newport News. Woodside administrators say extra security will be in place Friday and all students will be asked to walk through metal detectors and participate in a backpack or purse check.

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Several students have been arrested as administrators and police continue responding to reports of threats made to area schools.

There have been numerous threats at various schools across the viewing area since Sunday, Feb. 18. School administrators responded by increasing security and reaching out to parents and guardians of students.

“Most of the threats had been generated on social media platforms,” Norfolk Police Cpl. Will Pickering said.

This map shows schools and school districts in the Hampton Roads and northeast North Carolina region that were the subject of threats between Feb. 18 and Feb. 20. According to police, posting threats on social media is a Class 6 felony that can result in up to 12 months in jail as well as a $2,500 fine.

More than a dozen students have been charged across the coverage area this week. Two were arrested on Tuesday in Norfolk — and two middle school students were arrested in Norfolk and Virginia on Monday.

Police arrested a 13-year-old student at Blair Middle School in Norfolk on Wednesday for threats made toward Jacox Elementary School.

A second Virginia Beach area middle school student was arrested Wednesday for recent threats made to city schools.

Lauren Nolasco, a spokesperson with Virginia Beach schools, confirmed Tallwood High School’s principal notified parents Thursday of a student’s arrest.

A message sent to parents said the student was charged with making a verbal threat against the school.

Norfolk police said each arrest began with a search warrant.

”We will send that over to the social media platform and they will get back to us with the information who the subscriber is,” Cpl. Pickering said.

A 16-year-old girl was arrested and charged in Southampton County for a threat that was made on Sunday.

A Smithfield High School student was charged with a felony Tuesday for a threat made to the school the same day. Officials with Isle of Wight County Public Schools said police presence would be increased for the next few days.

The student reportedly made a threatening statement during a class discussion about the deadly Florida shooting. According to the sheriff’s office, the student claimed he was joking.

The Camden County Sheriff’s Office said a high student was arrested Monday and charged with misdemeanor communicating threats and disorderly.

A Perquiman’s County middle schooler was arrested Thursday for making a verbal threat of violence after a teacher took the student’s phone in class. The Perquimans Sheriff’s Office said the student will charged with a class H felony for making a false report of mass violence on educational property.

The Hyde County Sheriff’s Office said a 19-year-old student faces those same charges after making social media threats against Mattamuskeet Early College High School.

In response to the recent threats, 10 superintendents of school systems in Hampton Roads composed a letter to reassure school communities and reinforce the consequences of sending or sharing threats.

Read the superintendents’ full letter here

Administrators in Virginia Beach said Wednesday there were two reports to police of social media posts involving Brandon Middle School and Kempsville Middle School. The schools’ principals sent Alert Now messages to families:

Brandon Middle School

Good morning, parents – This is Christy McQueeney, principal of Brandon Middle School. I’m calling to let you know that police are currently investigating a social media post that referenced violence against our school. As we have seen in the past, police are quick to identify and charge suspects in cases like this. In addition, students who make a threat – even as a joke- face disciplinary action at school. Please take a moment this evening to thank your child for reporting to you, teachers, administrators or other adults. Police and staff will be extra vigilant today to ensure your child’s safety at school.  Please know safety is our first priority every day at Brandon.  Thank you for your continued support of Brandon. I look forward to seeing your child in class today.

Kempsville Middle School

Good morning, parents. This is Mr. Portis, acting principal of Kempsville Middle School. Overnight, we were made aware of a post on social media referencing violence against our school. The student who made the post was immediately identified and charges are pending. In addition, appropriate disciplinary action is being taken here at school. Please remind your child that anyone who makes a threat – even as a joke – faces very real consequences. Additionally, I ask that you take a moment to reinforce with your children that we all have a role in keeping our school safe. If they hear something, they should say something to a teacher, administrator or other adult. I would like to thank the person who came forward last night and the police who took immediate action. Finally, thank you for your continued support of Kempsville Middle School.

Cherise M. Newsome, a spokesperson with Portsmouth Public Schools, said Tuesday the district had received no viable threats against its schools. There were reports of posts circulating on social media about threats, specifically to Woodrow Wilson and I.C. Norcom high schools.

“It wasn’t a threat that was directed right at Wilson High School, but it was enough information for us to take it seriously,” said Portsmouth officer Tim Burkett.

There was an increased police presence at both Tuesday, according to Newsome. Portsmouth superintendent Dr. Elie Bracy III sent an email Tuesday morning to parents and guardians.

Norfolk police have made nearly half the arrests in Hampton Roads. Officers said they take each threat with that same degree of severity.

“At the end of the day you will go in front of an intake workers and or magistrate who will decide what’s next,” Cpl. Pickering said. “You are going to be released to your family or spend the night in a juvenile detention home, or even jail.”

Norfolk’s four juvenile arrests will have court dates in March.

Here’s a list of all the recent threat-related arrests across the region

High School Arrests:

  1. Smithfield High School (Isle of Wight County)
  2. Camden High School (Camden County, North Carolina)
  3. Tallwood High School (Virginia Beach)
  4. Northeastern High School (Pasquotank County)

Middle School Arrests:

  1. Blair Middle School — Student arrested for threats against Jacox Elementary School (Norfolk).
  2.  Norview Middle School (Norfolk)
  3. Norview Middle School (Norfolk)
  4. Lake Taylor Middle School (Norfolk)
  5. Kempsville Middle School (Virginia Beach)
  6. Virginia Beach Middle School (Virginia Beach)
  7. Virginia Beach Middle School (Virginia Beach)
  8. Lynnhaven Middle School (Virginia Beach)
  9. Perquimans Middle School (Perquimans County)