Hanover Sheriff’s Office says school threats not credible

Published: Dec. 10, 2021 at 1:45 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 10, 2021 at 1:49 PM EST
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HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Instruction continued as normal in Hanover County on Friday despite the Sheriff’s Office investigating a number of school threats in the area.

Early Friday morning, the Bell Creek Middle School school resource officer contacted deputies after staff overheard students talking about a possible threat, a Hanover Co. Sheriff’s Office spokesman said. That led to an increased presence not only Bell Creek, but all other Hanover County Public Schools.

“We talked to numerous individuals and based on everyone that we talk to, it appeared to be nothing more than a rumor that was started while kids were playing video games after hours,” said Hanover County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. James Cooper.

However, it certainly left many concerned. Around 12:30 p.m., several parents could be seen standing outside Bell Creek Middle waiting to pick up children.

As that investigation unfolded, an increased law enforcement presence was felt at other Hanover schools.

According to Cooper, the agency was then made aware of the “rumor mill” spilling over to Atlee High School, prompting more resources over to that location. In the end that threat was also deemed not credible.

“When we receive threats like this, we’re going to take each one very seriously,” he added. “No matter if we think it may be a rumor, we’re going to investigate it very thoroughly.”

Now authorities and school leaders urging students and parents to use Friday’s incident as a teaching moment.

The Hanover Schools Superintendent emailed families after dismissal encouraging parents and guardians to monitor their child’s online activity.

“Please let this serve as an important reminder that safety is everyone’s responsibility,” wrote Dr. Michael Gill. “We need your direct assistance with helping us to significantly limit the frequency of these incidents… Please also make sure your student understands the seriousness and the consequences of spreading rumors on social media or otherwise that disrupts the safe operation of our schools, which we take very seriously. If your child encounters any suspicious behavior or learns of a possible threat, please encourage them to share that immediately with an adult so that it can be reported to the proper authorities, as early intervention can often prevent a situation from escalating.”

“Be very careful about what they post, and what they say, and what they share on social media, because as we found out today it can definitely have a negative impact on our community,” Cooper added.

Over the last week many school systems across Central Virginia have dealt with their own school threats. All of this coming in the wake of the tragedy in Oxford, Michigan last month.

Cooper said the rise in the number of these incidents is concerning, but deputies will be there to investigate.

“We’re going to step up and continue to investigate and do our job; to give parents especially peace of mind while their kids are at school,” he added.

“In all instances when a safety concern is reported, school officials work in conjunction with our law enforcement partners at the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, who immediately investigate each instance, no matter how small,” Gill said. “This requires significant time and effort. In instances of false reports spread by making careless comments, valuable resources are unnecessarily diverted that could otherwise be spent addressing critical needs in our schools and community, including emergencies.”

Again, investigators said no credible threats were identified.

To read the Superintendent’s full message, click here.

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