Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram addressed rumors about unsubstantiated threats against two Leland schools during a news conference Thursday morning.
A joint news release issued Wednesday afternoon by the sheriff's office and the Brunswick County Schools system said the rumors against North Brunswick High School and Leland Middle School have been circulating during the past week.
Law enforcement investigated and determined the threats to be unconfirmed, but as a precaution, additional deputies were assigned to the schools. In the wake of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, additional deputies were assigned to the other schools in the county, as well.
During this morning's news conference, Sheriff Ingram — standing outside of North Brunswick High — said the rumors appeared to begin on Feb. 7 when a man tried to pick up a student at Leland Middle School. The man was not on the authorized pick-up list and the school's resource officer was notified.
Ingram said the man attempted to leave the campus while the SRO was checking to see if he had any outstanding warrants. Leland Middle was placed under a lockdown as a precaution.
The man did have outstanding warrants for some non-violent offenses and was taken into custody.
A student at the school expressed concerns to administrators that this event was related to an incident from last year. Back in Sept. 2017, three students were expelled and convicted after they made specific threats against specific students at Leland Middle which were posted to social media. Those threats included dates, names, and weapons which were seized by detectives.
Ingram said the student who was worried that the two incidents were connected began to express similar concerns to other students and friends which seemingly started the spread of the rumors.
Ingram added that the original social media post connected to the Sept. 2017 incident started to resurface due to the recent rumors.
"Last Tuesday, we were alerted to these rumors after parents were made aware and expressed concerns to the school," Ingram said. "Four students were interviewed on that day."
Rumors began to swirl at North Brunswick last Friday after an out-of-county domestic incident prompted the sheriff's office to assign additional deputies to the school.
"Due to this increased presence, false information began to circulate among students reigniting rumors related to the September 2017 incident," Ingram added. "Over 20 students have been interviewed at both Leland Middle School and North Brunswick High School, none of which were consistent. We have 20 different students with 20 different stories. There has been no substantial new threat. Thus far, zero credibility to any rumored threat."
Ingram then pointed to a message found Tuesday on a bathroom wall at North Brunswick High that read, "Have a nice day on the 21 of this month cuz there will be no more school after that."
The sheriff added that notes such as these are what mobilizes his agency to investigate possible threats. Detectives, so far, have not determined who was responsible for writing the note, however, the investigation is ongoing.
Ingram implored students and parents to report any suspicious or disturbing activity, especially on social media, to law enforcement.
Ingram then went on to stress that any and all rumors of possible threats are investigated as if they are true. If they are found to be valid, Ingram said those details would be released immediately.
Officials with Brunswick County Schools acknowledged the rumors in Wednesday afternoon's news release.
"Brunswick County Schools is aware of the rumors involving Leland Middle School and North Brunswick High School," BCS Public Information Officer Daniel Seamans said in the release. "As is protocol, with any rumors of this kind, BCS took immediate action and alerted school resource officers. ... The situation is being investigated by the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office and we are working closely with them. There is not believed to be any danger to the students."
On Wednesday night, the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office released this statement after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida:
The tragic events that occurred in Parkland, Florida earlier today are weighing on all of our minds. Our hearts and our prayers are with all those who were affected.
We understand that because of these events, and given the rumors circulating involving North Brunswick High School and Leland Middle School, that there are heightened concerns for the safety of the students, faculty and staff in our schools.
We want to assure the community that detectives continue to diligently investigate these rumors. Additional deputies will remain at both schools, and additional law enforcement presence will be at each school in the county as a precaution, until the person or persons responsible for these rumored threats are identified and held accountable.
We hope that these additional measures will help ease the minds of our community and assure confidence that BCSO and Brunswick County Schools are taking every step possible to ensure the safety of our children.
We would also encourage anyone who sees or hears anything suspicious to please report it to law enforcement. The Sheriff’s Office takes these reports very seriously and follow up on every tip and every lead.
Copyright 2018 WECT. All rights reserved.