Education

Conway Middle School notified parents of shooting threat only after Sun News inquiry

Horry County Schools receive dozens of threats in the wake of Parkland shooting

Barry Markovsky, a University of South Carolina sociology professor, said an increase in threats is common after school shootings.
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Barry Markovsky, a University of South Carolina sociology professor, said an increase in threats is common after school shootings.

A Conway Middle School student was overheard Monday saying they were going to “shoot up the school on Wednesday,” but parents and staff weren’t informed until Tuesday night, about two hours after The Sun News contacted the Horry County School District concerning the threat.

Parents and staff were notified 10:30 p.m. Tuesday via an email from Principal Regina Treadwell Pertell and informed that extra law enforcement would be present at the school Wednesday.

An incident report logged in PowerSchool, an internal online information system, was shared with The Sun News on Tuesday afternoon. It states that on Monday morning, a student heard another making the threat. That student reported it to a teacher, who reported it to administration.

Student statements found that two students overheard the exchange in the cafeteria line during breakfast, and the student admitted to an administrator they said it but weren’t actually going to do it, according to the report.

The report, logged as “inappropriate behavior,” concludes that administrators notified the student’s parents and assigned the student to out-of-school suspension Tuesday-Thursday.

A school district employee shared the information with The Sun News on the condition of anonymity, noting that parents and staff weren’t formally notified. The employee said nearly half the school didn’t go through metal detectors Monday because no one was available to “wand them” during the early morning shift.

“Several staff members do not feel safe at CMS,” the employee said.

When The Sun News reached out to Horry County officials about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier initially said she was seeking more information. She later sent the principal’s email, but did not immediately respond to a follow-up about the exact time it was sent.

“School administration was notified of a threat made by a student at Conway Middle School, which was overheard by another student,” Treadwell Pertell said in an email. “The parents of all the students who were involved in the incident have been contacted. The student who made the threat is facing disciplinary actions, but out of an abundance of caution, extra law enforcement presence will be at the school tomorrow.”

A few parents commented on The Sun News’ Facebook post Wednesday morning that they didn’t see the email until after they dropped their children off at school.

The Sun News also reached out to Treadwell Pertell, but didn’t get a response.

Bourcier did not immediately respond to follow-up questions including why parents weren’t notified earlier and whether proper protocols were followed.

Conway spokeswoman Taylor Newell said Conway police were not involved with the investigation before Wednesday, but will be assisting now that they are aware of the threat.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect the exact timing of the principal’s email.

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Investigative project reporter David Weissman joined The Sun News after three years working at The York Dispatch in Pennsylvania, where he earned awards for his investigative reports on topics including health, business, politics and education.
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