Center Hill Middle and High School students, teachers and parents saw more than the usual law enforcement presence on hand to greet them Friday morning, especially in light of this week’s tragic school shootings at a Parkland, Fla. high school.
Extra DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department deputies and vehicles were spending Friday at schools in the Center Hill attendance area.
Their presence came after reports of alleged threats were made this week against Center Hill Middle School and High School.
Rumors of guns and threats first reported around Center Hill Middle School this week led school officials to contact the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department. The threats were later determined to be false.
Still, Friday morning, as had been the case on Thursday, extra deputies were on hand spending the school day around some of the campuses. Compared to seeing 1-2 School Resource Officers and one vehicle at Center Hill High School, for instance, at least five vehicles and as many as eight deputies were on hand at the building, along with a school district security officer.
Following the Wednesday afternoon report from Center Hill Middle School to the Sheriff’s Department, Supt. Cory Uselton followed up with an email sent to parents of that school on Thursday, seeking to assure them of their child’s safety.
Uselton detailed in the statement that the alleged threats to the school were not true, along with reports of guns being found on campus and/or on buses. He stressed no guns have been found.
The superintendent also stated any threats against schools are taken seriously and that the Sheriff’s Department was investigating the reports.
“In order to ease parents' concerns, the DeSoto County Sheriff's Department had an increased presence on campus today (Thursday) and they will have an increased presence on campus tomorrow,” he wrote. “Parents and students will definitely notice this increased presence on campus Friday morning.”
Uselton on Friday morning had an email sent to all district parents again addressing the situation.
“Over the next few weeks, we will continue to review and update safety procedures in all of our schools,” Uselton wrote. “We are very fortunate in DeSoto County to have a great working relationship between our schools and all of our local law enforcement agencies. Over the last two days, we have been in constant communication with law enforcement officials, and we are very appreciative of all of their efforts.”
Uselton urged parents to report any information about suspicious activity they become aware of.
“I can assure you that all reports are given the utmost attention and are investigated thoroughly,” said Uselton. “Also, if you have children that are upset as a result of the tragedy this week, please encourage them to speak with your school counselors,” referring to the Florida high school fatalities.
The concern for safety around schools across the country has been heightened in the past week by the fatal shootings of 14 students and three teachers at a Parkland, Fla. high school. The shooter, a former student who had been expelled, was later arrested and charged with multiple counts of murder.
In another related school security-related matter, all three campuses of Northwest Mississippi Community College were placed on lockdown early Friday afternoon due to a potential threat by a student, according to a Northwest spokesperson.
"All three of our campuses were placed on lockdown as a precautionary measure," said Julie Bauer, Director of Communications for Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia.
Bauer said the college was given an "all clear" about 45 minutes later.
Northwest has campuses located in Senatobia, Southaven and Oxford.
"Our police were investigating a potential threat," Bauer said.
Bauer said at approximately 1 p.m., Northwest officials were informed by the Oxford Police Department of a threat from a current student that they considered to be credible against the college.
"Out of an abundance of caution, the decision was made by campus officials to place all campuses on lockdown during the investigation. Local law enforcement found the individual off campus and determined there was no longer a potential threat. At no time did the student come to any campus, and there was never any active incident on any campus."
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.