Columbia Co. school leaders working to combat school threats

Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 4:36 PM EST
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EVANS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Kids posting threats against their school can be disruptive, like the hoax threat that brought police to Westside in November.

Even when authorities say a threat is unsubstantiated and no one is in danger, school leaders say there are still consequences for students who post those threats online.

We talked to the chief of police for the Columbia County School District to learn more about the consequences students face for making these types of threats.

“We are on the ball, and we’re making sure we know what’s going on,” said Police Chief Gary Owens.

This is the first year for Owens and his team. Their mission is transparency and to push people to report anything suspicious.

“You’re going to see an increase in parent notification, things like that are going to be reported, and things that weren’t reported before,” he said.

When a threat is reported or a weapon is brought on campus, his team will start an investigation.

“You have to look at the circumstances and the totality of the situation. We have to look at the safety of the school as a whole. Does it compromise safety? Does it compromise what we’re doing,” asked Owens.

Consequences can range from code of conduct violations all the way to criminal charges.

“If and when they return to school, the officers take a lot of diligence to build a relationship with that student so we can pick up on things that could mitigate other problems down the road or build that relationship they didn’t have before. That trust,” he said.

Owens’ message to parents and students is if you see something, say something.

“Have conversations with your children and your students and say to them what to bring to school and what not to bring to school,” he said.