Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that at least 18 bomb threats, not arrests, have been made to Alachua County Public Schools campuses. The Alligator originally reported otherwise.
A suspect was arrested Friday in relation to a bomb threat made toward Hawthorne High School last week close to dismissal.
The suspect, 14, was charged for the false threat and the use of a communication device in committing a felony, according to a statement posted to Facebook by the Alachua County Sheriff Office.
This marks at least the 18th threat an Alachua County Public Schools student submitted to a campus. Although it’s unclear if the Hawthorne student will be charged as an adult, that has been the case for four students under 18 who have leveled violent threats against schools— two from Newberry High School, one from Eastside High School and another from Buchholz.
The decision of whether the Hawthorne student will be charged as an adult will be made by the State Attorney’s Office.
ACSO alleged that the suspect made the threat last Thursday toward the end of the school day.
Friday’s arrest is the latest indicator of a significant problem facing public schools in Alachua County. From Aug. 19 through early October, seventeen violent threats were made towards public schools in the county. With the most recent case, at least nine alleged perpetrators have been arrested and potential repercussions could include lengthy prison terms and hefty fines.
Kaley Behl, Alachua County Sheriff Office spokesperson, said the suspect called in the threat.
Behl said the initial called-in threat may have been unclear to whomever picked up the phone. The fact that the threat was verbal and not written could explain why it was not immediately deemed a bomb threat, she said.
“It took longer than it would have for some of the other bomb threats that have happened that were made, say, on social media or done by Snapchat or there was clear visible text message that was able to be read,” she said. “They actually had to get access to people’s phone records and voicemail…[which] often requires getting a search warrant and permission from the carrier to obtain that data and it’s not always quick to obtain it.”
Behl said that because the threat happened as the school day was coming to a close, there was simply a dismissal rather than an evacuation of the campus.
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Omar Ateyah is a third-year journalism student and the Alligator's Race and Equity reporter. He previously served as the Alligator's crime reporter and as a news assistant on the Metro Desk. He enjoys going on long, thoughtful walks.