Superintendent seeks help from parents, students in addressing school threats

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This week, Wayne County Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Michael J. Dunsmore, shared a nearly 3-minute message through the district’s automated notification system asking parents for their help to address a troubling issue that more and more schools are experiencing.

“We have a growing problem with students making threats against schools or against specific students and staff members on social media, in texts, and to one another,” Dunsmore said. “I wanted to inform parents through my message that if their child posts, texts, or tells someone they are going to shoot up a school, blow it up, or cause harm to others, that their comments, even those that are loosely made, are against the law. It does not matter if their child is bored, mad, or trying to be funny, we have to take all threatening comments seriously. Even more, if caught, their child will be suspended in accordance with local board of education policy, potentially go to juvenile detention or jail based on their age and not be allowed to return to their school.”

Dunsmore asked parents to encourage their child to immediately tell an adult when they see or hear threatening comments made by others so that they can be investigated. He also shared that if a student understands comments are a joke, but still reposts or spreads them to purposely cause others to be concerned, then they could also be in trouble at school and with law enforcement.

“Attacks and mass shootings are a serious issue that have happened across our country in schools, movie theaters, malls and different areas where the public gathers,” adds Dunsmore. “As I shared with parents, when they have occurred, the lives of students, families, staff and community members from those areas have been forever changed. None of us should ever take these tragic events lightly. We hope with our parents’ help, our students can watch what they say, what they post and help us keep the focus in our schools on teaching and learning.”

WCPS notifies law enforcement anytime a school learns about threatening comments, even after hours and on weekends. Because of these strong partnerships, Goldsboro Police Chief Mike West and Wayne County Sheriff Larry Pierce were invited to share statements from a law enforcement perspective as part of WCPS’ recent news release:

Goldsboro Police Department

“The Goldsboro Police Department takes all threats of violence on school property serious and we will continue to work with school staff and investigate these threats thoroughly,” West said. “I urge all parents and guardians to discuss with their children the seriousness of making any threat. Even fake threats can have serious consequences and long-lasting repercussions. Communicating a threat of mass violence on school property is a felony and a conviction can lead to an individual not being eligible for scholarships, college admission, jobs, etc.”

West says it is a crime to communicate to anyone, a threat of mass violence on educational property or at any curricular or extracurricular activity sponsored by a school.

“This includes school building or bus, campus, grounds, athletic field, or any other property owned, used, or operated by any board or education,” he added. “The threat does not have to be communicated directly to school administrators or staff but can be communicated through friends via social media, text messages, email, and other forms of communication.”

Wayne County Sheriff’s Office

“Individuals who make threats, whether it be about mass violence, a bomb or whatever, are committing a very serious offense, and [it] is a felony to do so,” Pierce said. “These threats consume a large amount of hours to respond to and investigate costing the taxpaying citizen. In addition to an individual being placed on probation or sentenced to incarceration, an individual found responsible may be held financially responsible for costs and any other consequential damage that results from the disruption of normal activities. My office takes these threats seriously and will vigorously investigate the incident to hold the responsible individual accountable for their actions.”

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