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Juvenile charged after threats lead to searches, early dismissal for William Fleming High School

Roanoke police have charged a female juvenile with two felonies connected to threats made Wednesday against William Fleming High School, which was locked down and searched.

Police said Wednesday afternoon that they sought a petition against the 14-year-old girl for threatening by writing or electronic message to kill or do harm.

“The petition has been served and the teen will be transported to the Roanoke Valley Juvenile Center,” the press release said.

The threat made on social media caused Fleming to shut down at about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Some parents reported their children’s bags were searched.

The lockdown ended at 12:30 p.m., when students were dismissed, “as Roanoke City Public Schools recognized this was a stressful event for students, staff, and families,” the school division said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “The Roanoke Police Department will provide an update to their investigation soon.”

In the wake of the Fleming lockdown, Roanoke police issued a statement via social media to combat rumors that had spread:

“While this investigation is ongoing and there are many details we cannot share at this time, we do want to address some rumors that we have seen regarding this incident — no weapons have been found on school property regarding this investigation, no injuries have been reported, and at this point we have not made any arrests for this offense.”

False threats against schools have occurred across Virginia in recent weeks, including in Franklin County last week and in Salem on Monday.

A second threat at about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday sent police to Patrick Henry High School, where a phone call reporting a potential threat led to another lockdown.

“Roanoke police and federal law enforcement believe this was a hoax call to the school that is unfortunately part of a national trend called ‘swatting.’ They continue to investigate,” Roanoke City Public Schools said in a statement. “The lockdown was lifted at 2:40 p.m. and the school dismissed normally.”

No student or staff member was injured during either of the incidents reported Wednesday. The school system said counselors are available to students that need them.

“We encourage families to check in with their students tonight. If students, families, or staff need immediate assistance, please call Carilion CONNECT at (540) 981.8181.”

“Roanoke City Public Schools does not tolerate threats or acts of violence,” the statement continued. “We ask families to please continue to remind their student of the importance of saying something if they see something.”

The potential threat at Patrick Henry was the fourth reported at a city high school in the last week.

On Sept. 14, Patrick Henry was evacuated due to a potential bomb threat. Police searched the building and deemed it all clear.

A call sent to Patrick Henry families that day asked parents and guardians to talk with their students about the consequences of making threats.

“Actual threats or jokes about threats will not be tolerated and will result in disciplinary actions and may be punishable by law,” the Sept. 14 recorded message said.

The next day, on Sept. 15, a second potential bomb threat was “written on the wall at Patrick Henry High School,” another recorded message said.

The high school was evacuated and searched again before students were dismissed to go home.

Other Virginia school divisions have responded to threats in the last couple of weeks, from Richmond to Lynchburg to the Roanoke region.

Also on Sept. 15, Bernice Cobbs, Franklin County Public School’s superintendent, said in a letter to parents that a Snapchat message had referenced a possible bomb threat to Benjamin Franklin Middle School on Sept. 16.

An immediate investigation by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office found that there was “no substantiated threat” to the school, and classes were held on Sept. 16.

The sheriff’s office announced later that the “written threat came from a juvenile in Northern Virginia and that jurisdiction is continuing to follow up with the investigation,” a social media post said.

On Monday, Salem High School was the subject of another false threat made by phone.

Principal Scott Habeeb said in a letter to parents Monday afternoon that Salem’s dispatch center had “received a phone call from someone claiming to be in a Salem High School classroom and threatening to cause harm to the school.”

A school resource officer, a resource officer trainee, the city’s police department and school officials “quickly determined that no actual or credible threat existed,” Habeeb’s letter continued.

A preliminary investigation by Salem police found that the phone call that featured the threat came from a phone number “that has recently been making calls to schools across the country with a similar message.”

“Beyond that, the room number in the false report was not a room number that exists at Salem High,” Habeeb wrote.

The principal said that even though the threat to Salem High was not credible, police and school officials walked through the building to make sure it was secure.

“The safety of our students is always our number one consideration, and we will always communicate with you if issues arise around the topic of school safety, even when those issues are false,” Habeeb wrote.

Roanoke police reminded students in their press release Wednesday afternoon that threats come with consequences.

“Things you say or text can hurt and scare others, and there can be serious repercussions. These are not funny jokes,” the press release said. “If your words are alarming enough to rise to the attention of law enforcement, you could face misdemeanor and/or felony charges. These are consequences that will follow you for the rest of your life. Please remember to take a step back and think before you say something or send a message you might regret.”

“Parents, please talk to your children and help them understand how serious their words can be,” the statement continued. “We all need to work together to keep our students and staff safe.”

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