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 today’s incident.