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District reacts to local teen who threatened school

Officials with the Colleton County School District want local residents to know that they are preparing to beef up safety efforts at Colleton’s public schools, particularly in the wake of a Colleton teen who made threats last week about hurting teachers and students at a local school.

The safety measures are also in the wake the recent February 14th mass school shooting that occurred at a Florida high school, according to Dr. Franklin Foster, superintendent of the Colleton County School District. Foster sent a press release last week to area media outlets in an effort to notify the public of the Colleton School District’s efforts.

“The district is proactively taking appropriate measures to increase awareness of potential safety concerns by reviewing our safety and security protocols, conducting safety audits and making revisions as necessary,” Foster said, in a written statement.

“The district has spent the last several years increasing our security measures throughout the district,” he said. “The safety measures implemented include controlled access with a visitor management system, fencing, security cameras on our campuses and school buses and several other features.”

In addition to the district’s existing safety protocols, Foster says that all principals of schools within the Colleton County School District will now review intruder and active shooter procedures. Officials at local public schools will also make sure all windows and doors are locked, and school authorities are being reminded to notify the school’s assigned School Resource Officers of any suspicious activity that they might encounter, he said, in a press release. There are assigned School Resource Officers at Colleton County High School and at Colleton County Middle School, with one officer rotating throughout the district’s elementary schools. These offices are paid for with a combination of funds from both the sheriff’s office (the county) and the local school district.

“I have also directed our administrators to share with our students that they can assist us in maintaining a high level of safety by informing an adult if they see or hear something that is suspicious or is a safety concern,” said Foster. “I also encourage you to speak with your child(ren) to remind them of the severity of the threatening statements or posting inappropriate content on social media.”

Last week, on Feb. 23rd, a Walterboro man was arrested and charged with disturbing school. He threatened to “shoot up the school,” according to information released by the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office. In an affidavit, the defendant – Steven Jones, 19, of Walterboro – “relayed specific threats toward the teachers and/or students” at the school.

The threats that he made “permeated fear” in other students, who witnessed his statements, as stated in the affidavit for his arrest. Officials at the high school were made aware of the threats. Then, several witnesses were interviewed by the school’s administration and SRO’s.

Jones was removed from his class and detained on campus after making the threats. He was later arrested. “Jones admitted to making the statement on more than one occasion,” according to Lt. Tyger Benton, spokesman for the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office.

 “The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office takes every threat to the public, regardless of content or manner of delivery, very seriously. All threats of violence toward s the students or staff of any school in Colleton County will be thoroughly investigated and all offenders will be held accountable,” said Sheriff R. Andy Strickland.

According to Benton, the local sheriff’s office does have a strict procedure in place when it comes to dealing with juveniles who make threats toward schools. When a student threatens a school with violence, Benton says the case is investigated locally, and the juvenile can also be arrested and charged in Family Court through the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice. Any student who is 17 years of old or older can be arrested and then incarcerated, he said.

“Please remember we have student support services available at each location if your child(ren) needs to talk about how they are being affected by the recent events or any other issues,” said Foster. “The safety of our students and staff is incredibly important to us. We take all threats seriously and they will be investigated and handled in accordance with the district’s Code of Conduct for students.”

Heather Walters (1678 Posts)