School leaders talk security and power of social media after vague threats against schools

MURRELLS INLET, SC (WBTW) – There have been two instances in the last few months where police have had to investigate alleged threats against Horry County Schools.
There was one this week at Saint James High School and one in November at Forestbrook Middle School, but police found neither to be credible.

Still, St. James High School Principal Vann Pennell says things like this impact students, parents, teachers, administrators, police, and the community.

Horry County police say they were alerted that someone made a threat over social media to “shoot-up” St. James High School.

“The kids saw it and called their teachers to say you need to know this and let Pennell and administration know so they can get ready,” said Pennell.

Posts were shared on social saying “everyone stay safe. A senior is threatening to shoot up the school this week”.

“Social media sometimes is so disruptive it causes chaos,” said Pennell.

Police say people posted several versions of the alleged threat to Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, and all were found to have no credibility.

Still, it left students, teachers parents, and administrators worried and led to extra security for the rest of the week.

“For us to get in the bed at three in the morning and get back here at 6:30 in the morning and for the police to be involved, our district office to be involved the teachers to get here earlier, we asked them to be here earlier and for our kids to know there’s a little since in the air that something’s a little different, it effects everybody,” said Pennell.

Solicitor Jimmy Richardson says threats against schools are not taken lightly.

“Threats against schools and individuals in schools will get you hauled off to jail quicker than anything,” said Richardson.

Horry County Police say they’re still investigating and charges are likely.

“You have to treat each one of these as though as if it is going to happen, and that puts everybody, not just the parents of kids on alert but also the staff and the police because again, if you don’t treat it seriously and something terrible happens you are neglecting your duties,” said Richardson.

Parents and teachers praised the way administration at St. James and police handled the investigation.

Pennell says it there’s one message for parents to learn from this, it’s to talk with their children about the power of social media and to monitor their accounts.