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School threat fake

October 27, 2011

Authorities say a threatening note left in a Catawba County middle school bathroom Thursday morning posed no real danger to students and staff.

The student who created the note confessed Thursday afternoon and has been suspended for 10 days.

Administrators locked down Jacobs Fork Middle School and the adjacent Fred T. Foard High School in Newton for nearly four hours after a Jacobs Fork student reported the note between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.

"We caught the young lady about 2 p.m. this afternoon," said Glenn Barger, superintendent of Catawba County Schools. "She confessed to it. Cameras helped a lot. We had the camera that recorded all the students who went in and out of that bathroom, from the time school started to the time we found the note. We went from there."

Authorities found no weapons or threats to safety after a thorough five-hour search of the school campuses by Catawba, Iredell and Gaston county sheriff's department officers and dogs.

Catawba County Sheriff's Deputy Alton Price said the note was written in first person, gave a specific time for an unspecified attack and did not give additional clues about plans for action.

"We're going to make sure of the safety of the students," Price said. "If my kids were here, I'd want them to be safe."

Catawba County Schools officials said administrators determined the threat "was false and without substance." The school system did not release the identity of the girl who wrote the threatening note or the identity of the girl who found it.

"School board policy calls for a 10-day suspension," Barger said. "We may be looking at more school discipline. It's regrettable we had to respond that way. It's assuring to know that the safety plan came together and there was no result in danger. It's ongoing to find out what prompted it."

Barger said he believes there's a good chance a school shooting in Fayetteville earlier this week prompted the incident at Jacobs Fork.

Price said 500-600 Jacobs Fork students were searched individually with metal detectors. Barger said deputies also searched lockers and buses.

"We are searching every cranny of the school," Barger said.

Parents outside the schools and Jacobs Fork students and teachers said they did not know what was happening during the search.

"We had to stay in our room, and I didn't know what was going on," said Alexis Weice, an eighth-grader at Jacobs Fork.

Weice said deputies checked her and classmates with handheld metal detectors. She said she learned what happened afterward by watching TV coverage of the lockdown.

Access to Jacobs Fork and Foard was restricted during the lockdown. After the lockdown ended about 1 p.m., parents were allowed on campus to pick up their children. Law enforcement released children to their parents.

Several parents said they were frustrated about the lack of information during the lockdown.

"It's just kind of frustrating, you know?" one parent said.

Catawba County Schools said a note would be issued to parents explaining the situation.

Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said the lockdown was the first this school year in the county. Reid said school dismissal went smoothly.

"Each case is different," he said. "On this one, we found a note and had to check it out. We didn't feel like it was legit, but we can't take any chances."

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