By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
BRYSON CITY – Following a threat on social media, Swain County High School was put on a hard lock down early on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 22. The incident ended several hours later with no threat detected.
“Principal Mark Sale got a message from a parent this morning that indicated a threat against Swain High School on Facebook social media,” Toby Burrell, Swain County Schools public information officer, told the One Feather. “At around 7:10am this morning, he locked down Swain County High School until we could get to the bottom of the threat.”
Burrell said the Swain County Sheriff’s Department was notified and arrived on the scene very soon thereafter. “When we lock down one school like that, all of our schools go into a soft lock down, so East Elementary, West Elementary, Swain Middle School, and Bright Adventures all went into soft lock down at that point.”
The lock down was released around two hours after it started after no threats were found.
Swain County Sheriff Curtis Cochran released the following statement on the incident, “…at approximately 7:10am, Swain County deputies, along with surrounding agencies and other state, local, and federal agencies responded to the Swain County High School in response to a social media threat that was sent to the Principal’s cell phone. There were approximately 40 officers that were dispatched to the high school as well as the middle school and both elementary schools to make sure that students and staff were protected.”
The statement continued, “During this event, a subject was arrested near the middle school that had a gun and drugs in his possession. At no time was this subject on school property, and we do not believe that he was going to the school. He was arrested and brought to jail and charged with being in possession of meth, marijuana and with carrying a concealed hand gun.”
Sheriff Cochran’s statement concluded with, “I want everyone to know that we will always do everything in our power to make sure our schools are safe and our kids have a safe environment for their education. This is not just a law enforcement issue. It takes the entire county being involved with this. The SBI has been contacted and are currently assisting with the investigation at this time. I also understand that parents wanted to pick their child up after the schools were put in lock down, but be assured that your children were safe and we cannot let these kids leave until everything has been cleared. Thanks for your understanding and cooperation during this event.”
Burrell said school officials did not know of the person who made the alleged online threat. “So, consequently, we dug a little on our end and the Sheriff (Curtis Cochran) dug a little bit on his end, but this name was a not a student at Swain County Schools.”
Burrell noted they checked with Jackson County School and Cherokee Central Schools, and the person was not a student in either of those either.
According to Burrell, a team from the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation was tasked with finding out the origin of the Facebook post. “That part of the investigation is ongoing.”
Burrell lauded the work of all law enforcement agencies involved in Thursday’s incident. “The Swain County Sheriff’s Department, and all agencies involved with that, Bryson City Police and the Cherokee Police were tremendous. They were instrumental. The high school had a large presence in case there was going to be violence there. Our outlying schools, East (Elementary), West (Elementary), and the Middle School all had officers who came in and gave their time, energy, and efforts to make sure those kids were all safe. It was just a tremendous job by our law enforcement agencies to make sure that the kids of our community were safe, and they are to be commended 100 percent.”
He also praised the staff members. “Our staffs at each of those schools were outstanding today in doing what they do best which is taking care of kids. It was a very fluid situation from the get-go, and they rolled with everything that happened without problem, and our students were the same way.”