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story.lead_photo.caption Sherwood Police Sgt. Tyler Grant (from left), Pulaski County Special School District Executive Director of Communications Jessica Duff and FBI Public Affairs Officer Connor Hagan answer questions Thursday at Sylvan Hills High School in Sherwood about threats that prompted the closure of the campus. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staton Breidenthal)

School threats this week caused two campuses to close and led police to send patrol officers and detectives to two high schools, officials said.

In all, four threats over two days were made against four different campuses in Pulaski County, which prompted the Pulaski County Special School District to hold a news conference Thursday morning at Sylvan Hills High School. Local-level officials were joined there by Connor Hagan, an FBI spokesman.

"We see a lot of times a spike in hoaxes after an actual school shooting or well-publicized threat," Hagan said.

Authorities have identified two "persons of interest" related to the latest threats, but no arrests had been made as of late Thursday, police said.

The first of the four school threats arrived Tuesday, prompting Sylvan Hills High to close Wednesday. Then on Wednesday, a threat was made against the Sylvan Hills North campus, which led the school to close again Thursday. The campuses are 4 miles apart.

The threat to the main campus was posted Tuesday on Reddit, a website known for discussion forums, and on another website, school officials said. The threat against the North campus was posted on an Instagram account that was deleted shortly after the post was made, authorities said.

Both schools are in Sherwood and are part of the Pulaski County Special School District.

On Thursday, threats were made against two Little Rock School District campuses, according to police.

The first was called in shortly before 9 a.m. at Little Rock Central High School. The threat was made via phone, and the caller threatened to "blow up the school," said officer Eric Barnes, a Little Rock police spokesman.

Central High Principal Nancy Rousseau emailed parents Thursday notifying them of the threat.

"You may be aware that similar alleged threats have been made at another district this week and we have since learned that the copycat behavior is continuing at other districts today," Rousseau wrote. "While we do not believe our students and staff are in danger, we have increased our security presence as a precaution."

About an hour after the call to Central High, police learned of a threat posted on social media to eStem Public Charter School, a high school on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The threat appeared to have been made by a former eStem student who is now enrolled at Mills University Studies High School, according to police.

Barnes said the incidents at Central High and eStem don't "rise to the level of criminal charges," so no arrests have been made in those cases, but he added that the investigations are still active. Both schools had a police presence Thursday morning, but not an "overwhelming amount," Barnes said.

According to an incident report, the person who made the threat at Central High called the attendance office. The call was answered by the attendance secretary, who said she heard a male voice on the other end of the call tell her in a whispering tone that he was "going to blow up the [expletive deleted] school."

The call was traced to a phone registered to a female student at Central High. The report stated that the girl's father was contacted and he met her at the police station, where the student was interviewed by detectives. She was released later in the day without being charged, police said.

During the news conference Thursday at Sylvan Hills, Hagan said young people often think it is a joke to make a threat as a way to get out of school for a day. He warned that the FBI will take it seriously and open an investigation. Even if the FBI doesn't file charges, the case could be turned over to state and local law enforcement officials.

"We don't want people doing hoaxes," Hagan said. "It's not funny. ... We're going to come after you. We're going to track you down."

Barnes said all school threats are reported to a "liaison" at the FBI office. A decision is then made about whether the threats warrant opening a federal case. If not, the investigation is handled by local law enforcement authorities.

Both Sylvan Hills campuses are to be open today, school officials said.

Metro on 02/14/2020

Print Headline: 4 school threats draw in FBI


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