A seventh-grade student at Chestatee Academy of Inquiry and Talent Development was charged Wednesday with making terroristic threats after another student heard the 14-year-old comment about “shooting up the school,” according to officials.
The comments were made on Monday and a parent, hearing the news from his or her child, contacted school officials that night, according to Gordon Higgins, spokesman for Hall County Schools.
The parents of the student suspected were notified that night that their child was not allowed on school property pending the outcome of the investigation, Higgins added.
The threatening comments did not involve specific plans, dates, times or people targeted, according to Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks, spokesman for the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, and no weapons were found at the school or in the boy’s possession.
The boy, whose identity is not being released since he is a juvenile, was booked into the Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center and the case remains under investigation by the sheriff’s office Criminal Investigations Division.
He will have a detention hearing in the next day or so, which is closed to the public. Outcomes in the juvenile court system can vary greatly and much discretion is left to the judge, said Marie Poole, clerk of Hall County’s Juvenile Court.
The boy also has been suspended from school pending a disciplinary tribunal, Higgins said.
The case is the second in the last month of a student being charged after some sort of school violence threat.
Flowery Branch High School senior Tiffani Torres, 18, was charged Jan. 29 with disruption of a public school after she made a comment on the social media site Instagram that spurred an investigation and resulted in 1,000 students being checked out of school Jan. 28.
Higgins said in Wednesday’s case, authorities learned of the threat after school and were able to identify the student that night, meaning the threat was eliminated before the next school day.
“With Flowery Branch, the person responsible was kind of unknown for a period of time, and this I think is what created the anxiety with a lot of the Flowery Branch parents,” Higgins said.
Wilbanks said since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., people have been especially sensitive.
“In addition, with such a high-profile incident happening so recently, the possibility of copycat incidents is a real possibility,” Wilbanks said. “And that’s something that we want to guard against; that’s something that the school system wants to guard against as well.”
Higgins said the school system continues to evaluate security measures, and Superintendent Will Schofield met Tuesday morning with the sheriff’s office to discuss potential changes with their partnership with the School Resource Officer program.
“Right now all those are kind of just preliminary talks so there’s no specifics to be discussed,” Higgins said.
The program designates SROs for each high school and middle school. Chestatee Academy’s SRO was involved in investigating the incident there and Higgins praised his work and law enforcement in general to quickly identify the suspect and make appropriate charges.
The system also has put more stringent visiting policies in place. Visitors must go first to the front office and once approved receive a visitor’s pass. They now also must return that pass when they leave campus, to eliminate the possibility that they use it again in a different situation.
“All of those are things that are very important to give peace of mind to our parents that the safety of their children is of our utmost concern,’ Higgins said. “And we will always do everything within our power to make sure their children are safe when they’re in our schools.”