Crime & Public Safety

3rd unsubstantiated threat made to Hilton Head school in 2 days

Police patrol Hilton Head middle school as added precaution after Thursday's threat

Classes were in session, and several Beaufort County Sheriff's Office deputies were patrolling Hilton Head Island Middle School as an added precaution on Friday, after a threat was discovered in a school bathroom on Thursday afternoon. The threat
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Classes were in session, and several Beaufort County Sheriff's Office deputies were patrolling Hilton Head Island Middle School as an added precaution on Friday, after a threat was discovered in a school bathroom on Thursday afternoon. The threat

The unsubstantiated, unverified threats made against Hilton Head Island Middle School continue to stack up with three reported in just two days.

The school went on modified lockdown Friday afternoon from 1:30 to 1:45 while law enforcement investigated a potential threat after students were overheard talking about passing around a gun. No weapon was found and the incident is still under investigation, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and the Beaufort County School District.

Students are kept in their classrooms during a modified lockdown as a precautionary measure.

Earlier Friday, someone inaccurately posted to Facebook: “Hilton Head Island Middle School! Possible Shooter on the Grounds!” The post included a hashtag, #islandpacket, possibly to alert local media.

The post had “NO TRUTH” to it and the subject responsible for the post has been identified, located and interviewed, according to a Sheriff’s Office news release Friday afternoon. The person responsible for the post had not been criminally charged as of Friday afternoon.

The person was an adult, not a student, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Bob Bromage said. He declined to release the person’s name. The investigation is still active.

The two unsubstantiated threats come a day after someone wrote on the wall of a girl’s bathroom at the school instructing students not to attend school Friday because there would be killings.

Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office said the bathroom wall threat was investigated and found to be unsubstantiated. A Sheriff’s Office news release late Thursday encouraged students to attend school Friday.

Extra police presence was stationed at the school Friday in light of the written threat, which is what prompted the person to post inaccurate information on Facebook, according to the Friday afternoon release from the Sheriff’s Office.

Despite the agency informing the public through multiple venues Thursday that the additional law enforcement at the school was a precautionary measure, the subject had assumed there was a “possible shooter” after hearing of that increased police presence on the school’s campus from a family member.

Schools across the country have been reporting threats, many made on social media, most of which are unsubstantiated, in the week since a 19-year-old armed with an assault rifle killed 14 students and three educators Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

▪  Just before dismissal Friday afternoon, a Beaufort Middle School student alerted administrators of a possible threat written on a bathroom wall. City of Beaufort police are investigating and there will be additional law enforcement presence at the school next week, according to district spokesman Jim Foster. He declined to say what threat said and if the threat was written in a boy’s or girl’s bathroom, citing the police department’s ongoing investigation.

▪  Broad River Elementary School students told administrators they heard gunshots Friday afternoon, prompting the school to go on modified lockdown from roughly 2:45 to 3:05 p.m. that ended in a late dismissal, Foster said. Law enforcement responded immediately and were unable to find any evidence of shots fired.

▪  At Lady’s Island Middle School, a student with a BB pistol in his backpack was detained on school grounds before he entered the building Tuesday.

▪  Also on Tuesday, at least six May River High School parents contacted school officials about a possible threat based on social media. School district officials and law enforcement were unable to substantiate it.

▪  At least seven Savannah area schools — Swainsboro High School, Savannah High, Arthur Williams Middle School, New Hampstead High School, Groves High School, Savannah Arts Academy, and Savannah Classical Academy — reported threats in the past week, according to WTOC.

Jarrod Bruder, executive director of the South Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, told a state Senate panel on Thursday that current state law is unclear on what crime has been committed when a threat against a school is scribbled on a wall or posted on social media, according to the (Charleston) Post and Courier.

A proposed new law carries more severe penalties than what currently applies to someone charged with communicating a threat or disturbing schools.

Kelly Meyerhofer: 843-706-8136, @KellyMeyerhofer

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