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Threat affects wrong school
Evans County reacts to Maryland social media threat
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In this Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019, photo an iPhone displays the apps for Facebook and Messenger in New Orleans. Facebook says it paid contractors to transcribe audio clips from users of its Messenger service. - photo by Associated Press

Evans County schools were on alert Monday as law enforcement investigated social media threats perceived to be against Claxton High School, but the threat was aimed at a different “CHS” — Catonsville High School in Baltimore County, Maryland.

A comment on a girl’s Facebook live video by an offender who said he planned to “shoot up CHS” Monday went viral after being “picked up from Snapchat and circulated through social media,” according to a Facebook post by the Evans County school system. “Several local students reported the image to local law enforcement and school officials beginning around 9:45 p.m. (Sunday).”

The information was also sent to parents of Evans County school students via phone calls and emails.

Claxton police Chief Dale Kirkland told the Statesboro Herald investigators with his office and the Evans County Sheriff’s Office began investigating immediately Sunday evening and sent out calls and emails around 10:30 p.m. making parents aware. School officials did not feel it was necessary to cancel classes, but several officers were posted at every school, and Claxton High School was placed on “soft lockdown,” Kirkland said.

The Evans County Schools Facebook notification described a soft lockdown as a move that “increases safety protocols including limitations to foot traffic as well as a single point of entry and exit for visitors.”

In spite of the schools not being shut down for the day, many parents kept their kids home. The school system reported Claxton Elementary School attendance was at 89 percent, Claxton Middle School was at 90 percent, and Claxton High School was at 70 percent.

Kirkland sounded the “all clear” around 2:15 p.m. after investigations led to discovering the phone number from where the threatening comment was made was from Maryland. Police there told Kirkland they had been investigating the case after they were made aware of the threat, and they have a suspect named, he said.

The original post had absolutely nothing to do with Claxton schools.

“The post was ‘screenshotted’ and literally went all the way across the country,” he said.

He expressed appreciation for the smooth cooperation from the Evans County Sheriff’s Office and Evans County school system, referring to the “great partnership” between the entities.

Evans County Schools’ Facebook post also gave thanks to Kirkland and Evans County Sheriff Randall Tippins and their staff, along with a reminder about the dangers of social media as well as making such threats.

“We are extremely thankful for the outcome of this investigation,” the statement read. “However, we want to continue to caution students about the dangers of social media. In this case, students were ‘friends’ with a girl from Maryland who has no local ties. Students began sharing the post locally, which went viral within the hour.”

Parents were encouraged to “routinely sit down with your children and review their social media accounts and friends” and for everyone to “continue reporting anything that is suspicious.”

If parents who kept their children home Monday provide a written explanation, the absences will be excused, according to the statement. School will resume as normal today.

 

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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