1,000 students skip school in Marion over mass shooting threat

Confederate flag incident sparks fight, rumors over social media, officials say

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OCALA, Fla. – More than 1,000 students stayed home from a Marion County high school on Monday after a threat of a mass shooting was posted on social media over the weekend. 

Marion County Public Schools said three students at West Port High School planned an incident Thursday in which they brought a Confederate flag to school and took it out during lunch hour, which prompted a fight with other students.

"Obviously, they did this together," said school district spokesman Kevin Christian. "They planned it out. It was calculated. They knew exactly what was going to happen. They wanted a response and they got a response."

There was no school on Friday, so Christian said the incident had time to fester on social media and evolved into a threat of the mass shooting.

More than 1,000 of the 2,600-member student body stayed home on Monday.

Parents were not notified of the incident, and that angered some of them.

"Nobody's telling anybody anything," said Cindie Carrier, who decided to keep her children home to be safe.

Carrier said she was angry the district did not issue an automated call explaining the threat and that it was found to be benign.

"We as parents have a right, and we put our children in that school, and we assume that they're protected while they're there. If there was a problem, why were we not contacted?" she asked.

"You have to understand, we want to share factual information," said Christian.

News 6 asked Christian if parents should have received a phone call from the school district dispelling some of the rumors of violence.

"That is a conversation that we are having," he said.  "I had several conversations with parents this morning saying, 'why didn't you just call us?'  And that's something we're discussing."

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