The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations, continue to look into a pair of social media posts that threatened violence at New Hope schools that had concerned parents keeping their children out of school Monday.
The posts began circulating through social media on Sunday as the LCSO began its investigation. Monday, the attendance dip was noticeable at the elementary, middle and high schools even as the LCSO stepped up its presence on campus.
“At the New Hope campuses, we probably have about 50 percent absentees,” LCSD Superintendent Lynn Wright said late Monday afternoon. “There weren’t any incidences or problems. For the students who came to school, it was a normal school day.”
The superintendent said the absentee rate today was about 10 percent.
“We don’t complete the attendance report until the end of the day, but that’s what it’s looking like,’ he said. “On a typical day, the absentee rate is less than 5 percent. So it’s still higher than normal, but it’s coming down.”
LCSO Capt. Greg Wright said his department began investigating the social media posts early Sunday evening and by 3 a.m. Monday had identified and interviewed several people whose names were connected with the posts.
“We had a couple of FBI agents and another from MBI who have expertise on cyber-crime to come in and help us,” Capt. Wright said. “We talked to six individuals (Monday) in reference to this, trying to determine who was responsible for putting the posts out. What we are in the process of doing now is getting subpoenas to access these social media accounts.”
The superintendent commended LCSO for its prompt response to the threats.
“They got on this immediately and there were deputies all over the place at the schools (Monday).” he said. “They’ll have enhanced security at the schools for the next few days, but I really feel like they have great control of the situation.”
Wright said the evidence collected so far suggests the threats may not have been as serious as some feared.
“First, we don’t take anything like this lightly,” Capt. Wright said. “The parents are obviously taking this seriously. But at this point, what we have learned so far makes us believe it was juveniles who are possibly using this to get out of school.”
Wright said LCSO will continue to devote extra deputies to the school as the investigation continues.
“We’re going to be maintaining that presence until we are absolutely satisfied that there is no danger,” he said. “This is not a harmless prank. It’s serious. Whoever is responsible for this will be charged.”
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.