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Schools: WMS students undergo DJJ evaluation after threats about shooting

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Two Waccamaw Middle School students who were arrested last week for making threats against classmates remain in the custody of the state Department of Juvenile Justice, according to the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office. They pleaded “delinquent” in Family Court to a charge of “disturbing school.”

The teens, both 13 and from Murrells Inlet, will be housed in a secure facility by the Department of Juvenile Justice for up to 45 days while they undergo evaluation, said Tonya Root, spokeswoman for the solicitor’s office. “Those DJJ officials will prepare a report with recommendations for sentencing,” she said. The maximum penalty is commitment until age 21.

The investigation stemmed from complaints about a Feb. 28 PowerPoint presentation by one student about school shootings, according to the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office. A week later, the school learned of a social media post by the boy that read “Wednesday, March 22,” the date of a 2001 school shooting in California.

Deputies were told by the second boy that the first boy didn’t want to remove the post because of the reaction he had received. The first boy was arrested March 8 for “disturbing school.”

The second boy was arrested on the same charge the next day after deputies were told by witnesses the boys had made threats to other students and talked about making bombs.

One witness said the boys told her “she would be the first to die” when they carried out their plan, according to the sheriff’s office.

The arrests came as a result of calls from concerned parents, school district officials said, and highlight the increased concern for school violence following well-publicized shootings around the country. “People sometimes think we go overboard,” said Alan Walters, the district’s director of safety and risk management. “If something makes you ask yourself, ‘Should I report this,’ the answer is always, ‘Yes.’”

The school received calls after the first boy’s class presentation about school shootings. No action was taken, but the district monitored the situation, Walters said.

“Whether implied or overt, we take these things seriously,” Superintendent Randy Dozier said. “I think people need to know that we will respond and there are serious consequences for their actions. It’s different than it was five or 10 years ago.”

The reports from concerned parents and the quick response from law enforcement show that feeling is shared, Dozier said. The district expanded its security efforts since the 2012 Sandy Hook school shootings in Connecticut to include resource officers in all elementary and middle schools.

“There was more to it than just the PowerPoint,” Walters said. “It was a lot more serious.”

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