Two Newberry High School students were arrested Thursday in connection with four bomb threats and one shooting threat at the city’s high school and middle school.
A 17-year-old male student was charged with three counts of making false bomb threats, three counts of using a two-way communication device to commit a felony and one count of threatening a mass shooting.
A 15-year-old female student was arrested and charged with two counts of making false bomb threats, two counts of using a two-way communication device to commit a felony and one count of threatening a mass shooting. The State Attorney’s Office needs to gather more information to determine if the two suspects will be tried as adults.
The investigation is ongoing, according to a release from the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.
Darry Lloyd, spokesperson of the State Attorney’s Office, said Friday that the 17-year-old student who put out multiple bomb threats to Buchholz High School this month will be tried as an adult on two counts of making false bomb threats and one count of possession of cocaine. This means the student can face up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He is also facing expulsion.
In addition to the arrests, Oak View Middle School was forced to take extra precautions Thursday after a rumor circulated Wednesday about a possible shooting.
In an email sent out to parents by ACPS spokesperson Jackie Johnson, she wrote that law enforcement quickly determined there was no direct threat to Oak View. Johnson could not clarify where or how the rumors started and why they were not credible.
Students were instructed not to bring their backpacks to school Thursday as an added safety measure, Johnson said.
Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Carlee Simon sent out an email to ACPS families in response to the arrests. She emphasized how the decision to make a threat will drastically impact a student’s future and may take away class time from the student body. Simon wrote that the district is currently exploring options to account for missed class time should threats continue, which could cut into winter or spring break.
“Threats are not a joke,” Simon wrote. “They take law enforcement away from other critical duties. They create a lot of anxiety. They cause major headaches for neighbors and local businesses.”
All students in the county currently receive instruction on internet safety and digital citizenship to hopefully prevent rumors and threats, Johnson said. She could not specify the safety protocols ACPS wishes to introduce moving ahead.
It’s important for students to report any school threat to trusted adults, Johnson’s email read.
ACSO spokesperson Kaley Behl said deputies held a meeting with the Gainesville Police Department, Santa Fe College Police Department, High Springs Police Department, Alachua County Police Department, School Board of Alachua County and the State Attorney’s Office to address the recent rumors and threats and to discuss possible solutions moving forward.
The Sheriff’s office recognizes this as an ongoing problem. Since August 19, there have been multiple bomb threats at Buchholz High School, multiple gun threats at Newberry High School and Eastside High School and rumors in High Springs, Behl said.
“This is not a joke,” Behl said. “This is extremely disruptive.”
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Faith Buckley is a first-year journalism student at UF and The Alligator's swimming and diving beat writer. She is specializing in sports media to one day hopefully work as an NHL commentator.