JEFFERSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — The Jefferson County School System has had to deal with several school threats throughout the school year.
Last week, a lockdown at a Jefferson County School led to a pellet gun being found in a 13-year-old’s backpack. The Rush Strong School student was arrested and charged with threats of mass destruction on school property.
No one was hurt during this case but this is one of many threats the Jefferson County School System has had to deal with just this year. The sheriff along with the director of schools are now speaking up about their concerns and what they’re doing to combat the issue.
“It’s not just a school issue, it’s a community issue, it’s a state issue, it’s a national issue,” said Jefferson County Director of Schools Tommy Arnold.
Arnold says there have been around 60 school threats since the start of the 2022-2023 school year.
“I believe in the past month or so we’ve had about four credible threats,” he added.
He says most of these threats are coming from middle and high school students. The school district has a threat assessment plan in place and follows strict protocols whenever a concern is brought to the administration’s attention.
“It starts with our teachers, counseling department, principal, that’s part of our threat assessment team, and they look at what the threat is if the student has the means to act that out, is there a plan. So a student who says something in anger versus says something in anger posted it on social media and has the means to act out the threat,” Arnold explained.
Sheriff Jeff Coffey says each school has an SRO who is the first on the scene to investigate but they rely on students and their parents to speak up if they hear or see anything suspicious.
“We take precautions every day as far as having the outer perimeter of our schools locked where no one can get in and we’re trying to stop the outside threats from coming into our schools like it’s happened many times before, Uvalde and other locations, but this threat is inside of the school and they got to understand that it’s already in there. They need to come forward and tell,” said Coffey.
Coffey said in the case where a pellet gun was found, several students knew of the potential threat and eventually one spoke up. Director of Schools Tommy Arnold called that student a hero and hopes this encourages more people to come forward in the future.