Area police have investigated several threats against Horry County schools in recent weeks and district officials say each one is a serious issue.
“It’s not funny, it’s not a joke, it’s not the whims of a youthful teenage,” said David Beaty, Coordinator of School Safety and Security.
Threats made against schools are not uncommon, though police have filed a few more reports than typical in recent weeks. Neither Horry County police nor Myrtle Beach police could provide exact figures on the number of threats they’ve had in time for this report. Beaty said the 2019-2020 school year has been busy with the number of school threats.
“I think our first incident was the very first day of school,” he said. “And if I’m not mistaken, before lunchtime on that day.”
Some of the incidents and reports this year include:
- On Sept. 18, a student was seen in a Whittemore Park Middle School bathroom with a handgun.
- On Sept. 26, Horry police went to the Horry County Education Center after a teacher received a call where someone reported that a person was going to “shoot everyone at the school.”
- On Oct. 9, Horry police responded to North Myrtle Beach High School after someone wrote, “shooting Friday 1130” on a toilet paper dispenser in a bathroom.
- On Oct. 16, Horry County police went to Socastee Middle School after a student commented that she planned to kill everyone in the school. Police determined the 13-year-old did not have the means to commit the acts.
“The bottom line is we take every threat seriously,” Beaty said.
Police and the school district both conduct investigations after a threat, Beaty said. That includes meeting with parents, determining if the student has access to weapons and to see if there are other issues in the student’s life.
District spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said its a case-by-case basis on when the school or the district notifies the community about an incident. The school district uses its call system and social media to let people know about a threat.
If the public doesn’t see someone in handcuffs, it doesn’t mean the incident is being ignored, Bourcier said. Police might arrest a juvenile in connection to the incident, which the district is not allowed to disclose publicly. Students who make threats are also subjected to district punishments, which can include expulsion.
The district says parents and students don’t have to wait until the school is open to report a threat. For example, if someone sees a post overnight, they can call the police. There are numerous ways to inform the district about a threat, including telling a school administrator, calling 843-915-7767 or emailing email@example.com.
Some schools have had increased police presence related to threats and Beaty said principals decide when to request more officers.
“In today’s climate,” Beaty said, “we have to take every threat completely seriously and that’s what we do.”