ORLANDO, Fla. – This week, as Florida marks the second year since 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, students in Central Florida experienced more than half a dozen lockdowns prompted by false threats from their peers.
Friday marks two years since students and school staff were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day in 2018.
Mainland High School student Ivey Vanoudenhove said students were thinking about the mass shooting Thursday after their school was placed on one of two lockdowns this week.
The Daytona Beach police were called to the high school Thursday after fireworks sent students running believing it was gunfire. The school was placed on lockdown until police determined that there was no shooter.
Police said they found fireworks and determined that was the source of the terrifying sound.
“Even though it was fireworks, it was really traumatic," Vanoudenhove said, who described a teacher pulling him into her classroom and barricading the door.
“We got to understand what those kids at Parkland went through. It was terrible,” he said.
The morning after the fireworks scare, Daytona Beach police arrested someone who made a shooting threat toward Mainland High School on social media.
The false-alarms in Daytona Beach happened in the same week threats were reported on campuses across Central Florida.
At Lake Brantley High School in Seminole County Friday, a student was arrested after bringing a BB gun on campus, Altamonte police said. No one was injured and counselors will be available at the end of the day for students.
In Marion County, more than 1,000 students were absent Tuesday at Belleview middle and high schools after officials said three unrelated online threats were investigated this week leading to student arrests.
On Monday, a threat against Belleview Middle School and Belleview High School was posted on social media after an on-campus fight, according to authorities. A 14-year-old boy has since been arrested in connection with that threat.
Another threat was posted online Wednesday evening, but deputies believe in that case that the student’s account from which the threat originated was hacked. That case remains open.
Then on Wednesday, a Belleview Middle School student claimed he was dared to create a fake Snapchat account and post a threat about a teacher who yelled at him, according to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. The teen was arrested on a charge of writing or sending a threat to kill and disturbing the peace.
In the wake of the mass shooting, Florida lawmakers passed bipartisan legislation known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Safety Act that requires every school campus to have a school resource officer. The law also put in place other safety and mental health requirements for Florida schools and requires anyone who purchases a firearm to be at least 21-years-old.
Many schools try to prepare students and staff in the event of a shooting, even though statistically an attack on campus is rare, with active shooter drills and staff training.
A recent report from NPR indicates these drills may be harmful to students.
In an interview with NPR, Winthrop University Prof. Melissa Reeves, the former president of the National Association of School Psychologists, voiced her concerns about school shooting drills.
“What these drills can really do is potentially trigger either past trauma or trigger such a significant physiological reaction that it actually ends up scaring the individuals instead of better preparing them to respond in these kinds of situations,” she told NPR.
School districts are attempting to head off potential threats through apps, tip lines and websites where students can anonymously report suspicious behavior or social media posts.
On Friday, Lake Brantley Principal Brian Blasewitz credited the Speak Out Hotline for notifying authorities about a student who brought an airsoft gun onto campus.
“A situation like this reinforces how important it is for you to talk to your kids about our anonymous tip hotlines that we have available,” Blasewitz said in a message to families. “Whether it is the Speak Out Hotline, or P3 campus app, or Fortify Florida, encouraging your students to “See Something, Say Something” is crucial to keeping our campus safe. These incidents are not a joke, and please help me by talking to your kids about the severity of the consequences for a major campus disruption like this.”