Pasco County schools, dealing with threats, warn students of consequences

The district and law enforcement had investigated 19 threat rumors since Feb. 14 through Tuesday night, superintendent Kurt Browning said. [Times files | 2016]
The district and law enforcement had investigated 19 threat rumors since Feb. 14 through Tuesday night, superintendent Kurt Browning said. [Times files | 2016]
Published February 21 2018
Updated February 21 2018

DADE CITY — A Pasco High School student was taken into custody Tuesday amid accusations of threatening violence against the school.

The campus was not at risk, school district officials said. But they made clear they take each threat seriously, and that making claims — even in jest — is a criminal offense.

The district and law enforcement had investigated 19 threat rumors since Feb. 14 through Tuesday night, superintendent Kurt Browning said. Stewart Middle School in Zephyrhills canceled a planned assembly on Tuesday because of a threat, which never materialized, district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.

Officials also have dealt with other actions, such as students at Mitchell High pulling the fire alarm on more than one day.

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Parents, students and residents, meanwhile, have inundated district email accounts with worries, rumors and suggestions that Browning said his staff is exploring as time permits.

The ideas have included mandating clear backpacks, increasing fencing around school properties and adding more guidance counselors. Browning said he already had instructed principals to make sure all gates and classroom doors are kept locked during school hours.

"It is a small price to pay in order to keep students safe," he said.

He also lit into students who use social media to make "reckless" comments, usually ones they don’t mean, that they’re going to bomb or shoot or otherwise harm a school.

Saying little good comes from social media, Browning said children need to understand that what they post into the sites can have long-term negative consequences. Figuring out you’ve done something "stupid" when an armed officer is standing at your door, and your parents are trying to figure out why, is too late, Browning said.

"Kids just don’t understand," he said. "I wish (social media) would just go away."

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at [email protected] Follow @jeffsolochek.

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