BRADFORD COUNTY, Fla. – A 15-year-old Bradford Middle School student is facing felony charges after he called in a bomb threat at the middle school Sunday night that caused all Bradford County schools to be closed Monday, according to the Starke Police Department.
According to police, the teen confessed to making the threat, which was left on a voicemail at the school, after a friend provided a tip that led to his arrest.
"It was pretty detailed in exactly what they wanted to do. Close down one school as a distraction and attempt to go somewhere else with this diabolical method,” Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith. “Basically, all they wanted to do was cause harm, is what they left in the message. We were concerned about that.”
Asst. Police Chief Barry Warren with Starke PD said the 15-year-old, whose name was not released, is facing charges of making a bomb threat, intimidating and threatening a witness, and interfering with school functions. The bomb threat and witness intimidation charges are both felonies, Warren said.
Bradford County Superintendent Chad Farnsworth said the student will be facing expulsion, according to the district's code of conduct for students.
“The consequences will speak to other students doing this in the future," Farnsworth said.
In a Facebook post, the Bradford County School District said it takes all threats seriously and it was working with the Bradford County Sheriff's Office and the Starke Police Department to investigate.
The closure impacted 11 public schools and at least four private schools, including Starke Christian School, Bradford Christian Academy, Northside Christian Academy, and Hope Christian Academy. Automated calls were made to students' homes about 6 a.m. Monday, however, some parents were sounding off on Facebook, saying they should have been notified sooner.
Fransworth told News4Jax that he understand the parents' frustrations, however the robo calls are most effective at 6 a.m. and if the calls are administered earlier in the morning, it's possible that no one will answer the phone and receive the message.
"We are dealing with the most prized possession and valuable resource that a parent has, so as a school district, it's going to be frustrating. You're going to be upset because we are dealing with your most prized possession and we take pride in that. So we don’t hold that against anyone expressing their opinions and we are doing the best we can to communicate as quickly as possible," Fransworth said.
Classes are expected to resume Tuesday as normal.
"My great-nieces and nephews, they're in middle school and all the other children. They scared the family," said Betsey Ming, whose family members attend schools in Bradford County.
Police and deputies began a sweep through of Bradford Middle School about 8:20 a.m that involved at least three bomb-sniffing dogs.
Police said no suspicious packages were found and Farnsworth said there was nothing to indicate the student would have carried out the threat.
"There was no indication that he ever made it to campus or approached the campus. But it was paramount for us to secure the campus," Farnsworth said.
He said the student has faced truancy charges in the past and is not someone who attends school every day, even though he is a registered student at Bradford Middle.
Warren said its possible the student's parents could be forced to pay restitution to the county for the manpower needed to resolve the issue, but that would be decided during criminal proceedings.
"Once consequences have been served, we have to move on to how we rebuild this young man and become a productive citizen of this community," Farnsworth said.