Bomb threat to three NCSS schools deemed hoax

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - KAYLA ROBINS krobins@cov­

Three high schools went on lock­down the morn­ing of Thurs­day, Sept. 11 for a brief pe­riod of time due to an on­line bomb threat be­fore it was de­ter­mined the threat was a hoax.

Shortly be­fore 10:30 a.m., the New­ton County School Sys­tem (NCSS) was no­ti­fied of a ru­mored threat against South Salem El­e­men­tary, Lib­erty Mid­dle and Al­covy High schools, caus­ing a cau­tion­ary im­ple­men­ta­tion of emer­gency pro­ce­dures.

A male stu­dent from Al­covy ap­par­ently told his mother on Mon­day, Sept. 8 there would be a bomb threat at Al­covy on Sept. 11, ac­cord­ing to New­ton County Sher­iff’s Of­fice (NCSO) Sgt. Cort­ney Mor­ri­son. When the mother asked who made the threat, the boy was un­able to give more in­for­ma­tion.

Two fe­male Lib­erty stu­dents, one of whom was the Al­covy stu­dent’s sis­ter, were talk­ing about the threat at school and told an adult, ex­plain­ing there was a bomb threat at South Salem El­e­men­tary School, Lib­erty and Al­covy on Face­book. Mor­ri­son said school ad­min­is­tra­tion then placed the schools on soft lock­down, and school re­source of­fi­cers were no­ti­fied.

When the girls were ques­tioned, they re­port­edly were asked to pull up the Face­book page that posted the threat but were un­able to find any­thing, which led law en­force­ment to con­clude the threat was a hoax.

No stu­dents were in harm’s way at any point, Mor­ri­son said. She said she was un­sure if charges will be filed.

“Dur­ing an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion, our school sys­tem’s first pri­or­ity is han­dling the emer­gency,” said Sherri Davis-Viniard, NCSS di­rec­tor of pub­lic re­la­tions. “We re­al­ize we can’t no­tify par­ents fast enough of an emer­gency, but our No. 1 pri­or­ity is mak­ing sure the chil­dren are safe. Once stu­dent safety is en­sured, the school dis­trict be­gins the par­ent no­ti­fi­ca­tion process.

“It is im­por­tant that par­ents keep schools up­dated when phone num­bers change so new con­tact in­for­ma­tion can be placed in stu­dent records. Par­ents at South Salem, Lib­erty and Al­covy should con­tact the school if they did not re­ceive an emer­gency call this morn­ing to ver­ify the school has ac­cu­rate phone num­bers on file.”

The school dis­trict has an or­ga­nized safety com­mit­tee that meets three times a year and in­cludes rep­re­sen­ta­tives from law en­force­ment and the Ge­or­gia Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, ac­cord­ing to Jan Loomans, NCSS di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions.

Fol­low­ing an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion, the NCSS safety team meets to de­brief and re­view the in­ci­dent and how the dis­trict re­sponded and then dis­cusses any pos­si­ble im­prove­ments that can be made.

“(NCSS) has a plan in place for emer­gen­cies, and we rou­tinely prac­tice for them,” said NCSS Su­per­in­ten­dent Sa­man­tha Fuhrey. “We hope we never have to use the plans, but when we do, we are pre­pared. Then after each emer­gency event we re­view and re­vise our prac­tices, if nec­es­sary.

“Although we re­al­ize par­ents would like to know what our pro­ce­dures are dur­ing spe­cific threats, we do not re­lease that in­for­ma­tion to the gen­eral pub­lic for ob­vi­ous safety con­cerns. Par­ents en­trust us with their chil­dren each and ev­ery day, and we ap­pre­ci­ate that trust. I want to as­sure ev­ery (NCSS) par­ent that stu­dent safety is our pri­mary con­cern. Safety is not a one-time prac­tice. It is a daily prac­tice and one that we will never stop. Our team did a great job han­dling to­day’s emer­gency event, and now we will re­view when we can do to make our re­sponse even bet­ter.”

Fuhrey thanked the New­ton County Sher­iff’s Of­fice and Cov­ing­ton/ New­ton County 911 for their as­sis­tance dur­ing the in­ci­dent.

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