JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Due to unspecified “potential threats” on social media, all Duval County high schools will be implementing “enhanced security measures” through the end of the school week, according to two robocalls News4Jax obtained Wednesday night.
A district spokesperson said a threat was made against Sandalwood High School on Tuesday and students were released early from the school on Wednesday after a student protest. Sandalwood is the only school mentioned specifically by the district, although all high schools are taking similar precautions.
One message was sent from Principal James Ledford to parents of Fletcher High School students. He states in part:
“I want to make you aware that our school and all Duval high schools will be implementing enhanced security measures for the remainder of this week due to a number of potential threats we have seen circulating in social media.”
Ledford said the call was to make parents aware so that they are not surprised when arriving at school Thursday morning.
A separate robocall from Principal Melanie Hammer at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts relayed the same message. Both principals thanked students and parents for speaking up.
“We appreciate students and parents who make us aware of these posts, and we will always take them seriously,” Hammer said.
Tracy Pierce, spokesperson for Duval County Public Schools, said that parents and students may notice metal detectors. He said some schools might have backpack checks.
Pierce noted that it’s close to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Remembrance Day, and that the district typically sees an increase in this kind of activity on social media around this time of year.
On Thursday, News4Jax spoke with Dr. Saryn Hatcher, the principal at Sandalwood. He said the day was peaceful on campus and that students reacting well to the increased security.
Things are taking place as usual.
The district is encouraging anyone who sees a threat on social media to share it with their school or police.
News4Jax crime and safety Expert Ken Jefferson says it’s critical that anyone with knowledge of violent social media chatter speak up.
“I always encourage anyone if they have information to relay that to police. It’s for your protection as well as others. You can remain anonymous. Police won’t divulge where they got the information from,” he said.
One way to do that is to report suspicious activity at schools through the Fortify FL app or on www.getfortifyfl.com.
You can click “Submit a Tip Online,” find your school and report.
The site was created in response to the deadly Parkland school shooting three years ago after officials learned of a gap in communication between law enforcement agencies and schools.