A 17-year-old male Whitley County High School student was taken into police custody Sunday after allegedly threatening violence against the Whitley County school district.
The Whitley County Sheriff’s Department took the teenager into custody about 8 p.m. Sunday for allegedly causing alarm by threatening violence in the school district, according to a sheriff’s department release.
“As some of you may be aware, earlier this afternoon there was a post on social media, which referenced a threat toward Whitley County schools,” Whitley County Superintendent Scott Paul wrote in a tweet Sunday. “We just want to make everyone aware that the sheriff’s department has determined that this was an attempt to gain attention. Even so, they have taken the individual into custody, and at no time was there a credible threat. As always, student safety is our number one concern. Thank you!”
Sheriff Colan Harrell said that the suspect sent a message to a girl at the high school that he was apparently interested in romantically that stated, “I am giving you a warning tomorrow is supposed to be a school shootout at our school. It is supposed to be a boy grade 12. He is 19 years old so be careful. I don’t know if this is true, but I need you to stay safe.”
Harrell said that the message was apparently posted on social media online somewhere and he started receiving numerous calls from concerned parents about 1 p.m. Sunday.
Harrell said he contacted school resource officer Jeff Anderson to investigate, and about 8:05 p.m. Sunday the suspect was picked up and charged with terroristic threatening.
Harrell said that he couldn’t begin to estimate how many calls he received Sunday from parents, who did the right thing by notifying authorities.
“The public was very helpful in this thing,” he said.
Harrell said that as a precaution he had about six deputies at the Whitley County school district’s central campus Monday to provide additional security in addition to about four Kentucky State Police officers.
Harrell said he also met Monday with Whitley County High School Principal Bob Lawson to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of security procedures that are already in place.
Paul said that the district is currently reviewing school safety policies in light of this incident.
“There will be some changes going forward but we are not sure at this time what those changes will look like. We are consulting with the Kentucky Center for School Safety for guidance on this issue,” Paul noted.
In addition to the criminal charge, the student involved in this incident will also be facing disciplinary actions from the school district, Paul said.
Harrell noted in the release Sunday that it is illegal to make claims of danger against anybody.
“It is ignorant to believe you can outsmart law enforcement. Knox County law enforcement recently proved that by arresting three. Now a young Whitley County man is learning that lesson the hard way,” Harrell said. “Threats, whether real or stupid jokes, can carry serious criminal penalties. Children, and that’s what they are no matter how clever they believe they are, need to be reminded of that.”
Anderson is continuing the investigation. He was assisted by Whitley County Director of Pupil Personnel Patrick Bowlin.
Anyone with information of a threat should contact Whitley County E911 at (606) 549-6017; in case of emergency, always dial 911.