Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott speaks at Cardinal Newman School’s Press Conference
A Catholic school shaken by a teenager’s racist videos and violent threats will have more security when the academic year opens as administrators scramble to maintain peace on the campus in Northeast Richland County.
In a letter to parents Friday, Cardinal Newman principal Robert Loia said the Richland County Sheriff’s Department would maintain an “increased presence’’ during the first few weeks of school.
Loia said he also is hiring a security guard to patrol the campus during the day and he will soon receive a security report from the sheriff’s department as part of an effort to improve safety at the school.
Sheriff’s department spokesperson Capt. Maria Yturria confirmed that the school has hired deputies to be on the school grounds for the coming weeks. School officials also requested active shooter training.
The first day of school, which is Tuesday, will “not be business as usual,’’ Loia said in the letter, released publicly Friday night.
Cardinal Newman, a Catholic secondary school, has been the focus of attention since The State reported two weeks ago that a 16-year-old student threatened to “shoot up the school.’’ Racist videos by the student showed him firing a rifle at targets meant to represent African Americans. In one video, he used a racial slur and said he hated black people.
He was later arrested but, because he is a juvenile, the Sheriff’s Department has not identified him.
Parents have been upset about safety and some have voiced concern about the racial climate at Cardinal Newman in the wake of mass shootings and racial tensions across the country. Many also have asked why the school administration did not inform them about the threat as soon as officials said they learned about it July 13.
Cardinal Newman officials and the Sheriff’s Department said the threat had been “neutralized’ so they didn’t inform parents immediately. Loia later apologized.
A Richland County Sheriff’s Department report indicates threats were made against the school May 11. But Loia told parents last week that some racist videos were made in July. A parent notified the school about the videos in July, which led to information about the earlier threats, according to Loia and the Sheriff’s Department. The threats were linked to a text and accompanying video in May, according to a Sheriff’s Department report.
In his letter Friday, Loia indicated the school is working to improve the racial climate at Cardinal Newman in the wake of complaints by some parents and students. Cardinal Newman staff received diversity training as it prepared for the school year. An advisory council is looking at “the manner in which we address respect, diversity and inclusion,’’ the letter said.
Earlier this past week, state Rep. Mia McLeod, D-Richland, told The State that improvements are needed at Cardinal Newman. The 16-year-old’s threat and racist videos should not be taken lightly, she said. Cardinal Newman is in her House district.
“We cannot afford, as parents, or as a community to overlook anything, given what is happening,’’ McLeod said.