Bluffton High School security still heightened but operations back to normal, principal says

tbarton@islandpacket.comMay 3, 2013 

Austen Almeida's booking photo.

SUBMITTED PHOTO

Security remained heightened today at Bluffton High School, two days after a student brought weapons to the school prompting an hours-long lockdown, but student absences appeared to have returned to normal levels.

Principal Mark Dievendorf said two Bluffton police officers were at the school today as part of increased security measures.

However, more students were in class. Just 27 students were absent, which is a usual amount, he said. On Thursday, about 100 students were absent.

Dievendorf also said that overall the school resumed its usual operations.

"I would say things have gotten back to normal," Dievendorf said. "We prepared for needs students may have from any anxiety or emotional issues. So far, no student has needed that. There hasn't been a need to change from the normal routine."

Austen Almeida, a 17-year-old senior at the school, allegedly brought a loaded handgun, 12 knives, gasoline, fireworks and a lighter to the school Wednesday. He has been charged with carrying a weapon onto school property, unlawfully carrying a firearm, possession of a destructive device and disturbing schools. He was denied bond Thursday at a hearing.

Dievendorf said the school will "remain diligent in (its) anti-bullying efforts," but said there were no formal or informal complaints made by Almeida or his parents that he had been bullied.

"I talked to the counselor and school social worker who worked with Austen and his parents in the past year or two," he said. "Her answer was clear: 'No, he never reported being bullied.' "

Dievendorf said any complaints or reports of bullying would have been added to Almeida's records, and there are no such reports.

Check back with The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette for more details, and follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

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