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I-TEAM: Mandarin High attendance plummeted after back-to-back threats

Records show more than half of students were absent day after 2 school threats

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than half of Mandarin High School's student body was absent at one point in the days after two threats earlier this month, according to new documents from Duval County Public Schools.

The I-TEAM obtained the eye-opening attendance numbers while looking into the real toll of the threats on the students and faculty. 

On Oct. 11, Mandarin High students were evacuated onto the football field for hours due to a bomb threat that had been posted on social media. The next day, a shooting threat via text led to an increase in security at Mandarin High. No arrests have been made in either case.

Blair Putz, whose son is a freshman at Mandarin High, lives less than a mile from the school. She said she's fearful for his safety, which is frustrating for her.

"I can’t protect him from everything, but I think that the school is doing their part to try and make it a safer place," Putz said. "I think we have to continue to work with them."

She took her son out of school Oct. 12, after the two threats, and she wasn’t alone in doing so. 

AbsentPresentEnrolledSchool date
182,5052,523Wednesday, Oct. 10
3912,1302,521Thursday, Oct. 11
1,5141,0072,521Friday, Oct. 12
1072,4142,251Monday, Oct. 15

According to DCPS, a little more than 2,500 students attend Mandarin High and on:

Oct. 10, before the back-to-back threats, only 18 students were absent.

Oct. 11, after the first threat, that number jumped to 391. 

Oct. 12, after two threats, 1,514 students -- more than half the student body -- were absent.

Mandarin High Principal John Kniseley told the I-TEAM on Friday that he wasn't surprised by the numbers.

"It’s definitely frustrating because it was impactful on what we’re in the business of, that is teaching and learning," Kniseley said. "So I think the impact on student learning definitely takes away from that."

Mandarin High students' absences were excused both Oct. 11 and Oct. 12. Teachers were able to use their leave if they wished, as the school has substitutes on hand every day, Kniseley said.

He also said the school prepares by doing drills each month. He hopes there’s not another threat but if there is, he said they've learned from the previous experiences and are ready to respond. 

There have been two additional threats, including one this week, investigated by Mandarin High because of vague bomb warnings at schools with the same initials, MHS. Kniseley said parents need to teach their children about the consequences of making a threat. 

When asked about the cost of lost attendance, the school district said, "There is no funding or direct resource impact. The loss is in the learning time."