The Wayne County Sheriff's Office confirmed Monday it has been investigating reports of a threat that someone was going to shoot up Southern Wayne High School.
Deputies found in talking to people throughout the weekend and on Monday that there was no credibility to such a threat being made.
A flurry of social media posts and phone calls regarding a potential threat of school violence spiked Monday.
Talk began Friday that someone had overheard a conversation between two other people regarding someone having mentioned a plan to inflict violence at an area school.
"The initial call that started it all was that they were going to shoot up the school," Maj. Richard Lewis said.
He was quick to point out, however, that there has been no evidence of there being any credibility whatsoever to reports that any such threat was actually ever made.
"We have not been able to find a person who has been able to say they heard with their own actual ears someone say they were planning an attack or violence against a school. It has all been hearsay," Lewis said.
Wayne County Public Schools spokesman Ken Derksen said that over time, the rumor mill and a social media posts made Monday morning had the threat being made against Charles B. Aycock or Eastern Wayne, he said.
"Some of these rumors spread to other high schools," Derksen said.
Throughout the day Monday, along with heightened police presence, announcements were made by principals in schools that the threat had been investigated and found not to be credible.
Still, Derksen said, some parents began pulling their students out of classes. He did not have a specific number of how many students left school for the day Monday.
"This resulted in some kids checking out early," he said.
Lewis reiterated the fact that despite what had been going around on social media about who might have heard what, deputies were never able to find someone who could say they actually heard a particular person issue a threat.
"To the best of our knowledge we have not found anyone who has said, 'This is what I heard,'" he said.
The news release said that due to the recent events in Parkland, Florida, where a former student returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and shot and killed 14 students and three teachers, as well as "the fear of school violence in today's society," the sheriff's office has placed additional deputies at area high schools.
Lewis said that the additional officers will remain in the schools past Monday, but that there is no hard and fast timetable for how long they will be there.
"We are going to continue that and monitor the situation," he said.
Patrol shifts have also been advised to stay near schools.
Derksen said the school system is not implementing any procedural changes at this time. Students will be sent home with a note for parents tomorrow explaining what has taken place and asking for their help with future incidents.
"We certainly understand why there would be concern," Derksen said. "Any time that happens, like in Florida, it impacts everybody. Your heart catches any time you hear there has been an incident at a school."
To help maintain a safe and orderly educational environment for students and work environment for faculty, Derksen said the school system is working closely with the sheriff's office and is asking for parents' help, too.
"Even if it is someone trying to inflict fear," he said.
When parents see on social media posts are circulating about something like that, call the school, call the police and report it.
"Even if it is so we can tell them that no, that was reported to us and we have investigated and found there is no credible threat," he explained.
Derksen said parents will then be put at ease knowing the threat has been followed up on and refuted, and then when they see posts like that continuing to circulate they can comment on the posts and help mitigate the misinformation going on.
Conversely, if there is a credible threat and parents assume it has already been reported and don't call, that would not be the desired response.
"In order for us to maintain safe and orderly schools, we need their help, too," he said.
The sheriff's office news release said both it and Wayne County Public Schools take claims of threats seriously and asks that anyone who hears or sees on social media a threat to cause harm to a school to report the information to law enforcement immediately.
All claims will be investigated, and if a person is identified as having made a threat, appropriate charges will be filed.