ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – A parent was placed in custody Monday after allegedly making threats against Mayport Coastal Sciences Elementary School, according to the principal.
Principal Katie O’Connell sent to students’ families a message, which Duval County Public Schools provided to News4JAX, saying there was a “security concern” on Monday morning that promoted the school to operate on a code yellow status as a precaution. A code yellow lockdown means that there’s a heightened security state, but that the school still holds classes.
According to the message, there was a disturbance in the front office, where a parent became upset and made threats against the school. It was not immediately known what the threat was. The message states that police quickly intervened and placed the parent in custody.
“This incident was isolated to our front office, and students and staff remained safe,” the message says.
The lockdown has since been lifted.
“I never want to call with news such as this, but I always want to make sure you are informed whenever there is a potential security threat to our campus,” the message reads.
That communication with families is something that parents told News4JAX they really appreciated.
“I wanted to know what was going on, they told us that the children would be fine, that there was an incident that it was taken care of that the school will be placed on lockdown,” said parent Valarie Jacobs. “They informed us no sooner than I think it was like 8:30 that everything was all clear, what had happened and that everything was taken care of and the lockdown was released and school was on just as well as regular.”
Parent Paige Richardson had several questions when dropping off her child at the school on Monday morning,
“What could you be so upset about that you’d want to threaten an elementary school? Like what could be that big of a deal that you have feel the need to threaten elementary school kids? That makes no sense,” Richardson said.
This incident comes after a student was arrested Friday after allegedly making a social media threat aimed at Atlantic Coast High School, prompting the campus to be placed on code yellow status, according to the principal.
On Friday morning, Dr. Michael George, principal of Atlantic Coach High, told students’ families that school officials were informed of a social media post from a student threatening a shooting at the school. The principal said that police identified the student accused of making the threat and that the student was apprehended. DCPS later confirmed that school police arrested the student within three hours of becoming aware of the post.
News4JAX on Monday obtained the incident and arrest reports, which identify the student arrested on a charge of sending a written threat to conduct a mass shooting as a 14-year-old boy, who News4JAX has chosen not to name. According to the incident report, the teen had posted an image to Snapchat with a threatening message toward the school, and another teen saw the image abd reported it to police. The report states school police searched the 14-year-old and his backpack and did not find a gun.
Duval County School Police Department Chief Greg Burton told News4JAX on Friday that threats are not something the department takes lightly.
“We don’t take them as being a joke, a lapse in judgment,” Burton said. “We take each one very seriously, and if we find out who made the threat, we will do the investigation and make the arrest.”
According to DCPS, there were 46 threats to harm schools in 2020-21. That number more than doubled — to 109 — in 2021-22, according to the school district, although learning from home due to due COVID-19 may have played a factor in that change.
Still, the district has been working to hammer this message home, with Superintendent Dr. Diana Green posting a video last January. She says in the video, “I’ve charged my staff to treat every single threat of violence seriously. We will follow the letter of the law and we will respond with the highest possible level of consequences. Remember, we’re talking about lives. We’re talking about safety. We’re also talking about your future.”
The school district is urging parents to tell their children about this. The district says it’s important to let them know how serious it is and how it can have a long-term impact on their lives.