ORANGE PARK, Fla. - Clay County schools have received 17 threats to schools this academic year, 11 of them since last week's Parkland shootings, School Superintendent Addison Davis said Thursday, adding that the district will strongly discipline any student making such threats.
"It is essential that I ensure that each school workplace be a safe and respectful environment for all," Davis said. "There may be copycat threats within our schools and on social media. There may be some isolated threats and jokes that may be placed on social media as well. We will take every call seriously. We will take every social post seriously in order to problem solve and create the best and safest environment for our learners and our employees."
Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels said none of the local threats were credible, but he made it clear during a Thursday afternoon media conference that his office will not assume than any threat is idle, until it is investigated.
"We vet every threat and take every threat seriously. There is no idle threat," Daniels said. "If we know that it’s a hoax, we still may go the extra mile. If I’m going to blow the budget on any one item, it’s for the safety and welfare of our children."
Daniels said that last year, deputies received four threats, including "a 14-year-old who was arrested for making bomb threats." Daniels said that the teenager was charged with a second-degree felony.
“We will have a zero tolerance policy on things like that,” Daniels said. “If your kid or you think it's cute to do that…we will arrest you if we find out its you. No bones about it. You will go to jail. You say ‘Poor little Timmy doesn’t need to go to jail.’ Well, poor little Timmy doesn’t need to be making threats.”
Davis said the district will continue to have lockdown drills, fire drills and active shooter drills to make sure students and teachers know how to react in an emergency situation. According to district officials, every school has an individual school emergency plan and "all schools have standard operating procedures to address any conceivable event at the school. Additionally, school counselors are available at all schools, many of whom are trained mental health counselors, district officials said.
Several parents in Clay County have called the newsroom to say they're keeping their children home Thursday. Bus drivers have also reported seeing fewer students at bus stops Thursday morning.
Cedric Grant’s ninth-grade son stayed home from school Thursday. The family moved to Florida this past August from Louisiana.
Grant saw the information about a social media threat at Oakleaf High School on Wednesday.
“I didn’t want to rush to the school. I said, ‘I’ll wait till you get home,' so my wife and I could talk to him about what was going on," Grant said. "He was very afraid when he came home. He was.”
The school district said about 1,000 of Oakleaf's students -- about 40 percent of the student body -- stayed home Thursday.
Daniels charged parents with the task of being the first line of defense against kids making threats-real or fake-on social media or elsewhere.
"It’s time for the parents to be parents. It’s time for parents not to be friends to children," Daniels said. "Let them know the illegalities of making such threats. It sickens me to think that someone would think that it’s a game to put out a post, an email--that would make a threat to do anything to any of our schools."
Daniels also said that the school resource officers in Clay County are armed. He also said that he would like to add more school resource officers. When asked if he thought that teachers should be enlisted to carry guns at work, Daniels said that it's up to the school board or superintendent to make a ruling on that topic.
Sources told News4Jax that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the threats and sharing information with local agencies.
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