Seymour Community Schools officials say they have uncovered a plot by at least one student to carry out an attack at Seymour High School in 2018.
Superintendent Rob Hooker said at this time, a 15-year-old male sophomore has been linked to the threat.
Seymour Police Department and the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office also are involved in the case.
The student, whose name is being withheld because of his age, has been suspended and could face more severe disciplinary action and possible criminal charges pending the outcome of the investigation, officials said.
Evidence, including social media and verbal conversations, showed the student was planning the attack for two years from now when he would be a senior, Hooker said.
The attack was to take place April 20, 2018, Hooker said, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings in 1999 that killed 13 and wounded more than 20 others. At that time, Columbine was the worst school shooting in U.S. history.
“These students weren’t even alive when Columbine happened,” Seymour High School Principal Greg Prange said.
Officials learned of the threat late Thursday when a student was overheard by another student making comments. The student reported it to a guidance counselor, who then involved administrators and the school resource officer, Prange said.
Officials don’t believe other students are involved at this time or that the boy was being bullied, but that could change as the investigation continues.
Information about the situation was not released immediately so as not to panic students, parents and the community and to preserve the integrity of the investigation, Hooker said.
“We had no reason to believe students or teachers were in any imminent danger,” he said.
Much has been learned from the threat on how social media along with student awareness and concern can prevent a situation from escalating to a much more dangerous one, Prange said.
It’s not known at this time what kind of weapons the student may have been planning to use or if there were intended targets, said Talmadge Reasoner, assistant principal and school safety specialist.
“But it was serious enough to cause concern and warrant us taking action,” he said. “Threats are starting to become more prevalent nationwide, and to assume that we wouldn’t be susceptible would be ignorant on our part.”
Any and all threats are taken seriously, and anyone being found responsible will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, Prange said.
“School violence and threats are not taken lightly, and these are not joking matters,” he said. “I cannot overemphasize how important school safety is to us.”
Reasoner said the one positive consequence to how society has evolved is that kids are more ready to say something now when something isn’t right.
“I’m glad we have students who feel like they have a good enough rapport with staff that they can report such things,” he said. “I think they take things more seriously.”
“They are our eyes and ears,” Prange added. “If something doesn’t look right or sound right, you’ve got to let us know because these things are not taking place right in front of us. We don’t have access right away to everything they are doing online.”
Reasoner said Seymour Community Schools is lucky to have the resources it has to handle such a threat, including three school resource officers and cooperation from Seymour Police Department and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.
“Thank goodness I know the chief of police and he knows me,” Reasoner said. “I feel like that was a big advantage to us.”
The school also has a tip line students can send a text message to anonymously. All messages go to the school resource officer.
On Monday, Prange sent a letter home with students to inform families of the situation. He also talked to teachers and students about what was going on.
Prange said it saddens and worries him that any student would want to hurt others or themselves.
He is asking parents, students and the community to come together to help prevent an attack from happening by being aware of how students are acting at home and at school and to talk to them. He also said parents need to be aware of what children are accessing on the Internet, the people with whom they are communicating and the websites they are accessing.
“Parents, please open and maintain lines of communication with your teenager,” Prange said.
If students don’t have positive and productive ways of expressing themselves to others, they will find negative and unproductive ways, possibly acting out violently, Prange said.
“Do not allow doors to close between you and your teenagers that might not be opened until it is too late,” he said.