Jackson County school officials, parents, guardians and students were all anxious last Wednesday when an “unsubstantiated” threat placed everyone on high alert. Superintendent Mike Smith issued the following notice via Facebook: “The Safe Schools Coordinator was made aware of a Facebook post circulating about a possible incident at a Kentucky school on August 28 and an Arkansas school on August 29. According to the State Security Marshall these claims are UNSUBSTANTIATED.
However, after consulting with Sheriff Hays, it was decided to have police present at all schools in the morning. As always the safety of our students and staff is the highest priority.”
Many parents were not taking any chances. Despite the safety assurances and the lack of substantiation of the threat, many parents kept their children home from school.
Superintendent Smith and the JCPS were responding to the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security after it issued a statement describing a possible threat against schools in Kentucky for Wednesday, August 28, 2019. The threat was generic in nature meaning no specific school was mentioned. The threat originated outside the United States in a gaming chat room. The KY Homeland Security release was as follows:
“We are aware of a Facebook post circulating about a possible incident at a school being planned for the 28th in Kentucky and the 29th in Arkansas. Initially the threat was reported to FBI Little Rock from an individual outside of the US. The threat was read in a gaming chat room that indicated there is going to be an incident at a Kentucky and Arkansas school on the 28th and 29th of this month. The threat DID NOT name a specific location in either state and was very generalized. At this time, the complaint is UNSUBSTANTIATED. If anything further develops from this report, the KIFC will push out additional information as it becomes available. The FBI and KIFC, as well as state and local law enforcement, contine to monitor this situation.
The FBI in Louisville on Monday said in a twitter post that it is aware of an “unspecified internet threat against schools in Kentucky” and Arkansas this week. “There is no evidence indicating this threat is credible. However, if you see something suspicious online or in person, contact local law enforcement or the FBI,” the FBI statement said. It provided no additional information.
Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis sent the FBI statement in a letter to all school superintendents Monday afternoon. The letter said the Kentucky Department of Education had been in communication with the Cabinet for Justice and Public Safety and the Kentucky Center for School Safety regarding news reports from Arkansas of a possible “school shooting threat” in Kentucky on Wednesday, Aug. 28.
Meanwhile, an Arkansas police chief is also reporting that the Little Rock FBI office received a report that a school shooting would happen in Kentucky on Wednesday, Aug. 28, and in Arkansas on Thursday, Aug. 29. No specific schools have been mentioned, police said.
In a Facebook post Sunday evening, Jonesboro Arkansas Police Chief Rick Elliott released a statement that said the FBI in Arkansas sent out a notification to law enforcement over the weekend about the situation: “The Little Rock FBI office received a report indicating a school shooting would occur in Kentucky on August 28, 2019 and in Arkansas on August 29, 2019. The reporting party lives in another country, and his/her identity could not be confirmed. The reporting party allegedly receive the information while playing an online video game. Attempts to ascertain the identity of the person who made the comment on his/her location were unsuccessful,” Elliott said. “This information has been provided for general awareness,” he said.
According to Sheriff Paul Hays the day was uneventful and he was thankful for that. Unfortunately, we live in a time when one has no choice but to take every threat seriously. The recent school shootings have made life difficult for students, school officials, parents, guardians and entire communities. When our children’s lives are on the line there is no room for mistakes.