Area schools respond seriously to possible threats

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October 6, 2006

More than 100 students left Silver Bluff High School today under increased security.

This time it wasn't even a written threat that caused problems.

The principal says the always popular rumor mill quickly spun out of control, and by the end of school today, one in every five students either had left or not gone to classes at all.

The hallways at Silver Bluff High School were a little less crowded today.

"There's just rumors going around that there is going to be a drive-by shooting...there's supposed to be like ten or so fights today," said student Ryan Randall.

"It's kind of terrifying when you get here and everybody says there is supposed to be a shooting," said student Megan Morris.

But there was no shooting and no fights. In fact, there wasn't even a written threat--just a mysterious picture painted on the sidewalk.

"It is not clear what it is about," said Principal Todd Bornscheuer.

What is clear is the extra security grew out of an argument that started in the cafeteria Thursday morning between two boys over a girl. In the end, seven students were suspended over the incident.

"Overnight rumors spread throughout the community that the students were planning to come back to the school today," said Bornscheuer.

But in light of recent school crimes and threats, parents weren't taking any chances.

"I'd rather him be at home where I know he is safe," said parent Leigh Cousino.

"Just out of a safety precaution I feel more safe with him out of the school until it dies down and they find out exactly what is going on," said parent Cheryl Hilliard.

"She called and didn't feel safe, and if my daughter doesn't feel safe, then I'm not going to leave her here today," said parent Michelle Morris.

Principal Todd Bornscheuer says that in the future, anyone caught spreading rumors they know to be false will be punished.

School administrators hope to have things back to normal next week.

Silver Bluff wasn't the only school with extra eyes on security today.

Hephzibah High School added officers after the school board says they received information that something may happen today.

It didn't, but officers searched the school last night, and locked it down. Then they had the extra security today to make sure all the students were safe.

Kids and teachers were also on alert at Harlem High School today, the latest Columbia County school to deal with a threat. Like the others, it was written in the bathroom.

The principal says the message didn't name a specific target or time, but the school will stay on what they're calling a "soft lockdown" for a couple of days. That means all doors are locked, and traffic is limited.

Lakeside and Evans dealt with more specific threats earlier in the week, and were also put on higher alert.

And these threats were the topic at a meeting for a number of Columbia County leaders this morning. The school board, fire departments, sheriff, and emergency departments were all represented.

The group talked about how to keep things safe, and what to do if something were to happen.

"People should feel good, go about their lives," said emergency director Pam Tucker. "We're working on improving our plans, and we do this all the time."

The meeting today had actually been scheduled a couple of weeks ago, but the threats this week, and violence around the nation led to this.