PINELLAS COUNTY, FLA - District officials and law enforcement authorities across Tampa Bay have been investigating school threats and at the same time trying to return to normalcy.
Detectives take threats against schools seriously, even more so after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day. Authorities said a teenager killed 17 people, mostly students.
In Pinellas County, parents and students are being urged to immediately report questionable behavior and social media posts to authorities and staff.
“We have seen an increase in Pinellas County in the number of threats reported to us since the Parkland tragedy. We’re working very closely with law enforcement to make sure that each threat can be vetted and that we can ensure that our schools are safe,” Lisa Wolf, Pinellas County Schools Spokesperson said.
Lisa Wolf said it is also about trying to make sure the school day is not disrupted. She said they try to communicate with parents as often as necessary, regarding alleged threats.
“It’s so important for our community, when they hear of a safety concern or a rumor, to report it to law enforcement because that’s going to help all of us return to a sense of normalcy, while also making sure that everyone is safe,” Wolf said.
Their staff acknowledged the terrible tragedy in South Florida with their students.
“I think like every county in the state there’s been an increased awareness of this type of incident in the wake of Parkland, and I think one of the most important things we’ve encouraged staff to do is help students return to a sense of normalcy,” Michael Cowley, Managing Officer of Psychological Services, said.
Cowley said it is important to return stability into the lives of their students and staff, but also make them aware there are people to speak with, if they need to do that too.
“Part of returning to a normal routine as quickly as possible is to give students that sense of stability. We want to return to the normal routine though with an awareness of the emotional and behavioral state of the kids in the classroom because there might be some students who are reacting more and do need to have more conversation. So, returning to that routine (and) being aware of emotional states of students in the room is really what we’ve encouraged all staff to do. And then of course there are teachers and adults in the building that students can speak to, but also student services personnel, a school psychologist, school social workers and school counselors are available,” Cowley said.
Today Pasco County Superintendent of Schools Kurt Browning released a video for his middle and high school students, asking them to be responsible with social media.
“I don’t want you guys to jeopardize your future by making a stupid mistake. When you share these threats with each other, you can cause widespread panic. You disrupt school and you waste law enforcement resources,” Browning said.
He said a number of his students have been arrested for creating false threats.
To hear his entire message click here.