Central Florida schools see uptick in threats. Here’s what we know

At least 14 school-related threats reported in September and October

Four Corners Upper School in Osceola County was placed under lockdown due to a threat of a shooting. (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Law enforcement agencies across Central Florida have responded to at least 14 school-related threats within two months, records show.

In September and October, News 6 has been made aware of multiple incidents involving students in possession of weapons, threatening to use weapons to harm others or falsely reporting the use of weapons on campus.

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Law enforcement officials have arrested juveniles and responded to threats in Flagler, Volusia, Seminole, Lake, Osceola and Orange counties.

The threats come weeks after Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty to murdering 17 people nearly four years after Parkland’s 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

The common thread expressed by law enforcement and school officials when investigating or reporting these school-related threats is an urge for parents to discuss with their children that making threats is a serious offense that can result in an arrest.

Students, staff or parents concerned about a potential school-related threat are encouraged to contact law enforcement and school officials directly or call the anonymous SpeakOut tip line at 800-423-TIPS.

Below is a breakdown of the school-related threats made in each county.

Flagler County

Flagler County had the highest number of school-related threats in this time span, with five incidents reported in September and October and 11 total reported since August, including those involving the same student twice and the same school on three separate occasions.

Sept. 2 and Oct. 27

Flagler deputies arrested an 11-year-old on Sept. 2 after she called 911 and filed a false report on an active school shooting at Rymfire Elementary School, according to officials.

According to authorities, the student told the 911 dispatcher they heard multiple shots, and while no one in the classroom was hurt, shots were fired from downstairs. When the dispatcher asked to speak with the teacher, the caller hung up the phone.

Deputies said they eventually contacted the teacher, who told them he did not hear or see any shooting incident.

Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly emphasized that the department does not tolerate false reports, especially those referencing active school shootings.

“Here is a great example to the youth that threats are not a joke, and pranking law enforcement is a crime. We take all threats very seriously and they will not be tolerated,” Staly said. “This fake call required multiple deputies to respond to the school taking deputies away from responding to other calls. Parents please talk to your children about making threats and be the sheriff in your home.”

Deputies said the same student made another false report of an active shooter at the same school on Oct. 27 and was arrested again before being released to their parents.

Sept. 30

Deputies responded after a 12-year-old student was accused of threatening to “shoot up” Buddy Taylor Middle School.

The juvenile was arrested after bursting out they would “shoot all you up here. All you be dead” in response to a teacher asking them to calm down in the classroom following a disciplinary meeting the student had in the dean’s office, according to officials.

Deputies confronted the student at a residence later that evening before arresting and charging the child with written threats to kill.

“We don’t like making these arrests, but we will come knocking on your door if your child makes any threat to harm someone,” the sheriff said in a release. “Florida law is black and white and law enforcement has no flexibility so I once again ask parents to be the Sheriff of your home and help us prevent it by talking to your kids about the seriousness of getting mad and making stupid comments like this. Teach them the proper way to handle their anger as they will need those skills for a successful life as an adult.”

Oct. 12

Another threat was made toward Buddy Taylor Middle School.

A student was arrested on two counts of threats to kill after reportedly saying, “I’m going to shoot you” multiple times to a student and teacher while hinting they had a gun.

According to Flagler County investigators, the incident marked the sixth similar school-related student arrest in the county within 30 days.

Oct. 14

At the same middle school, an eighth-grade student was allegedly making threats to shoot another student while riding the bus home.

The student was arrested on a written threat to kill charge after investigators interviewed a victim who claimed the suspect threatened to shoot a gun at them.

Nov. 2

Deputies were alerted by Flagler-Palm Coast High School authorities of a 15-year-old threatening to get a gun and “shoot up” a group of kids due to an altercation over a lunch table.

The sheriff’s office said deputies interviewed several witnesses, including one who said the student said he was going to “shoot them up” and provided an address for them to come to.

The boy was arrested for written threats to kill.

“Words have consequences and behavior like this is not acceptable, especially in our schools. I am once again asking parents to be the Sheriff of your home and help us prevent this. Talk to your kids about the seriousness of making threats and to choose their words carefully, as words have consequences under the law,” Staly said in a release.

Nov. 5

Deputies were called to Buddy Taylor Middle School because of a student threatening to “shoot up the school” during lunch, according to a news release.

Deputies said administrators told them three students reported they were sitting at a lunch table with the 13-year-old suspect and one student asked him about a rumor they heard. The juvenile replied “if one more person asks me about that… I am going to shoot up the school and y’all finna be first,” the release said.

The boy admitted to the threat in hopes of getting the other students to leave him alone, records show. He faces two counts of written threats to kill.

Volusia County

Schools within Volusia County also saw around four arrests and incidents in which a school shooting was either falsely reported or suggested.

Sept. 2

According to Volusia County deputies, a 16-year-old student reported multiple tips regarding a planned New Smyrna Beach High School shooting on the Fortify Florida App, pretending to be different people.

During an interview with the suspect, investigators determined the tips were unfounded and they were charged with filing a false report, officials said.

Sept. 8

In Orange City, police received a call from an out-of-state number about a bomb threat involving an Orange City middle school. Officers searched the campus on Sept. 8, which was only populated by staff due to an early release day, and found nothing.

No arrests were made in relation to the threat.

Oct. 20

A Port Orange school was subjected to a lockdown, and later a police investigation, after Creekside Middle School staff members located a loaded gun in the backpack of a 13-year-old student, officials said.

Port Orange police detained the student.

“No threats were made to any other students or staff,” police said.

Oct. 26

Another 13-year-old was accused of issuing a school-related threat at Galaxy Middle School later in October, according to Volusia County deputies.

The student was arrested after deputies launched an investigation into rumors and threats circulating about a school shooting. Numerous kids were reported absent from school due to threatening messages found on the student’s Snapchat, suggesting they were planning a shooting, deputies said.

The student was arrested on charges of a written threat to kill or injure and a false report of a bomb or explosive weapon of mass destruction.

“Call it a joke if you want, but if you threaten to shoot up your school, then you’re going to face the consequences,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said in a statement. “I’m imploring all parents to get this point across to their kids. Otherwise law enforcement will be teaching the lesson instead.”

Oct. 27

Volusia County deputies arrested another middle school student within the same week on similar charges.

A 12-year-old Heritage Middle School student was charged after threatening to “shoot up the school,” officials said.

Sumter County

Sept. 14

A 15-year-old Sumter P.R.E.P. Academy student was arrested after detectives said they discovered the juvenile was a member of an online chat room where the topic of conversation was school shooting threats.

Sumter County detectives received the tip from a police department situated in Cedar Park, Texas, and managed to trace the comments back to the suspect in Sumterville.

Osceola County

Sept. 16

Liberty High School was placed on lockdown after a student threatened to harm another student, presumably with a handgun, deputies said.

“No handgun was found and all parties were identified. We take these threats very seriously,” the Osceola Sheriff’s Department said in a release.

Orange County

Sept. 22

Orange County Public Schools sent a message to families regarding a social media image circulating showing a bathroom stall door with a threatening message.

Deputies investigated, deeming the report not credible and confirming the image did not depict any current bathroom facilities within the county’s schools currently.

“We appreciate everyone who alerted a teacher or principal about this concerning image and reiterate that we take issues such as this very seriously,” the school said in a message to parents. “The safety of our students and staff is our highest priority. Thank you for your assistance.”

Lake County

Oct. 17

South Lake High School officials were made aware of a photo circulating among students on Snapchat showing a message on a bathroom wall threatening a school shooting.

In a message to parents, the school said law enforcement officials were looking into the threat, “but at this point there is no evidence to suggest that the message is in any way connected to South Lake High or any Lake County school. However, in an abundance of caution we will have increased security on our campus tomorrow.”

They urged students with safety concerns to tell an adult at school, contact law enforcement directly or report any concerns through SpeakOut, an anonymous tip line at 800-423-TIPS.

Nov. 3

Lake County deputies arrested a 13-year-old girl after she threatened a school shooting on Snapchat. The sheriff’s office said she admitted to making the threat after other students got her in trouble for selling nicotine for vapes.

She was arrested on a felony charge of making written threats to do violence.

Seminole County

Oct. 18

School officials addressed a potentially threatening image found to be noncredible by law enforcement investigators.

Seminole County Public Schools sent out a message to parents regarding the rumors of threats posed toward multiple middle and high schools across the county.

Oct. 29

Lake Brantley High School staff, Altamonte Springs police and Seminole County deputies were made aware of a message posted by students on Snapchat threatening to “shoot up 3 period.”

Altamonte Springs officers said they are in contact with both students who they believe sent the message, and through further investigation, deemed the threat not credible.

“At this time, our campus is safe and the threat is unsubstantiated and not credible. We will continue working with ASPD and update you all if any more information comes out. I also wanted to take this time to thank you all for the outpouring of information provided to myself and my team through email, phone calls, the Speak Out Hotline, the P3 Campus app, and of course everyone who came to me to report the situation,” said Principal Brian Blasewitz in a letter to parents.

About the Author:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.