Northside High increases security after shooting threat

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 26, 2014 

Joe Paull jpaull@ledger-enquirer.com Northside High School students walk through the atrium during a class change Monday afternoon.

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Despite the threat that there would be a shooting Wednesday at the school, it was a routine day at Northside High, officials said, other than increased security.

No more absences than usual, no undue distractions in the classrooms and no extra buzz in the halls, said Northside principal James Wilson.

"Our kids came to school," he said, "and that's important because they trust us."

The school normally has a full-time Columbus Police Department officer on duty, he said, but "four or five" patrolled the building and campus Wednesday and will the rest of the week.

Wilson said he spoke to about 10 parents who contacted him with concerns since he notified the school community about the threat with an email and automated phone call Monday around 4:30 p.m.

"They wanted to know more about what precautions we were taking," he said.

In his message to parents, Wilson said in part, "We have been made aware of a social media post that states someone wrote on a department store wall that a shooting will happen at Northside on March 26. We take all reports seriously and immediate action has been taken in reporting the social media post to school district administrators, MCSD security and the CPD. Again, our students and staff are safe and the report is being investigated. If you have questions, please call (706) 748-2920."

The threat was on a Facebook post from an employee of the store and then shared on a neighborhood watch website, Wilson told the Ledger-Enquirer. He declined to specify the store.

"A friend of mine saw it and called me," Wilson said as he explained how he was alerted Monday afternoon, "and we called security and informed the police, and they began investigating it."

Muscogee County School District security investigated the threat by speaking with the store manager and the person who made the post, district communications director Valerie Fuller wrote in an email to the Ledger-Enquirer.

"We do not know who wrote the reported threat on the wall of the department store bathroom wall," Fuller wrote, "but we do encourage parents to talk with their child about pranks, false reports, threats, behavior code violations and serious consequences for misconduct that could lead to suspension, expulsion, and/or criminal charges."

Wilson said he thinks the store employee made the post not to repeat the threat but to alert the public. "I think she was trying to be helpful," he said. "She was trying to make sure it was out there."

As a result, the principal concluded, "Social media can be your best friend or your worst nightmare."

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow Mark on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.

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