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Officials review school security procedures

If you see something say something, don’t post something, says sheriff



Sheriff officials said Tuesday they are reviewing the procedures they follow with school threats after an investigation last week sparked a  panic among some parents.

Sheriff Donnie Craig and Captain Kris Stancil said the sheriff’s office, which commands the school resource officers, is regularly training and assessing school safety and has really increased their efforts this year with input from Superintendent Carlton Wilson and the school board. “We had really picked up the pace and this was before the Florida shootings,” said Craig.

[The school district also released a statement on security which appears at the bottom of this article.]

For the physical layout/structure of the schools, Craig said they identified some weak points where they want to make changes but would not publicly identify any until after they have been corrected.

“We have issues identified and we will have them corrected by the next school year,” he said.

More immediately, Craig said they are looking at procedures and how they handle possible threats and notifications following the panic that swept the community on social media last week, flooding the high school’s front office with calls, prompting some parents to rush to the school and others telling their students who drive to PHS to return home.

Craig said the investigation last week found “absolutely no threat of a school shooting was made.”

Officials said a student did make a statement on Snapchat that worried some of his acquaintances, but it did not imply any threats. However, word began circulating and other students said they had heard there was also an online statement that did imply violence.

Stancil said the investigation was like peeling back layers trying to find anyone who actually saw a threatening statement. In the end, some students interviewed said they had heard of the threat secondhand, but no one was found who actually saw it.

Unfortunately, word began circulating online Wednesday and drew fresh steam from a school threat story in another state, the location of which some people obviously overlooked.

“We would ask that parents do some investigating  of their own before posting or sharing social media links or comments,” said Stancil.

Craig also expressed dismay that even as both the sheriff’s office and school system were posting information that all was clear at the school, some people ignored that and continued spreading alarm on social media. 

“We had a trust issue where people were trusting comments on Facebook over our statements,” Stancil said.

Craig said he directly contacted several people who posted inaccurate social media statements to discuss it with them.

“I always say if you see something say something,” Craig said. “Not if you see something, post something.”

Craig said tips from parents/ students and friends are the best, and maybe only, way to stop potential shooters. 

“If someone is afraid of something, I want them to know we will investigate it thoroughly,” he said. The sheriff’s office is looking to revive a former anonymous text-tip line that was discontinued previously over lack of use.”

Students are asked to come forward if they have concerns for security. They also cautioned students that at this time in America, jokes about violence at a school will not be tolerated. Joking around about school threats may lead to charges, the sheriff said.

Finally, authorities want to inform the public that in cases like this when no arrest is made, they may not release much information as the subject may be a juvenile. 

“We may not be able to fully explain what happened,” Craig said. “We have to be careful with what we release.”

The school system released the following statement.

“Working closely with one another, the Pickens County school district and the Pickens Sheriff’s Office conduct regular assessments of the entire school system to evaluate all safety and security measures. We have been in the process of updating these plans for the current school year. 

These assessments include a security analysis of all school facilities, review of security plans, and evaluation of all emergency procedures. This ongoing assessment is to provide the students and staff of Pickens County schools with the safest education experience possible. 

Upon completion of this safety analysis, all recommendations for implementation of additional procedures, technology or practices will be reviewed by the board of education, the sheriff of Pickens County, and the school superintendent. Once these reviews have been completed, we will host a town hall meeting to answer questions and address concerns from parents and other stakeholders regarding school security. 

The school district and the sheriff’s office take every incident seriously and will conduct a thorough investigation of all claims of threat or violence against our students, staff, and schools. If found to be true, we will prosecute to the full extent of the law and/or student code of conduct. This includes student’s comments made in a joking manner. Please remember all student discipline is protected under law and cannot be discussed, even with a possible victim.”