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Parents worried by allegations someone tried to sell a gun at Hernando High School

An unspecified number of students were arrested. No one was injured and no threats were made but the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office has said little about the incident.
Stay with tampabay.com for the latest news and updates. [Times]
Stay with tampabay.com for the latest news and updates. [Times]
Published Sep. 5, 2019
Updated Sep. 6, 2019

BROOKSVILLE — Parents of Hernando High School students say they fear for the safety of their children after deputies say someone tried to sell a firearm on campus Thursday.

The high school at 111 Ernie Chatman Run was placed on lockdown for about two hours after a school resource deputy learned that a firearm was seen on the campus, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies took two people into custody shortly after the lockdown notice was sent out to parents just before 9 a.m., the agency said. Deputies continued searching the school until locating a third subject and finding the weapon off-campus.

The Sheriff’s Office said an unspecified number of students were arrested but did not release their names or the charges they face on Thursday. Deputies also did not say what type of firearm was recovered or release any other information about the incident.

Kim Sechrest, 40, whose 16-year-old son is a junior at the school that she declined to name, said she wished authorities would tell parents exactly what happened. Her son told her that deputies entered his classroom with their weapons drawn, searching for a suspect.

“It keeps getting worse and worse and for some reason it’s a chain reaction,” the mother said.

Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis plans to hold a news conference on Friday to discuss the incident.

Nearby Parrott Middle School, Brooksville Elementary School and the Hernando County School District offices were also placed on lockdown during the incident, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The school district did not respond to a request for comment.

No one was injured and no shooting threats were made during the incident at Hernando High, deputies said, but this lockdown came just a week after Central High School was placed on lockdown due to unfounded reports of someone with a gun on campus.

RELATED STORY: Hernando County deputies find no evidence of reported person with gun at Central High School

Parents of Hernando High School students said they’re unsure how to make the school safer — some suggested metal detectors, while others disagreed — but they are concerned if, in fact, a student brought a gun onto campus.

Jamie Hamby, 33, said she was at her Brooksville home going through her morning routine when she received a message via Snapchat at about 9:30 a.m. from her son, 15-year-old freshman Jacob Skuta.

“Mom, the school is on lockdown,” he said, then sent her a quick video of his classmates hiding in their science classroom.

“It scared me to the core,” Hamby said. "I just really wanted to get him.”

Her son had just started high school weeks ago and now he was already scared, she said. She watched the local TV news stations broadcasting live outside the school and waited for updates from the Sheriff’s Office.

Jamie Hamby, 33, of Brooksville, took a picture of her son Jacob Skuta, a 15-year-old freshman after Hernando High School was placed on lockdown for about two hours on Thursday. The mother said she took the photo to let her family members know her son was safe. [Jamie Hamby]

She recalled her conversation with Jacob that morning. “I love you, son. Have a good day!” she told him. What if that had been their last conversation?

Still, she’s not sure if the Sheriff’s Office or school district should or could have done anything differently. Maybe they could put more deputies on campus? She just hopes they never let the students who were arrested back on campus.

Samantha Black, 45, texted both of her 17-year-old twin sons, seniors Dylan and Preston, when she got a call from the school. Dylan texted back, saying they were fine and on lockdown.

Her oldest son, Dalton, 18, had just graduated from Hernando High and was visiting home from the University of North Florida. His freshman roommate is a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School alumnus who survived the mass shooting there 18 months ago.

When Black learned that, she said it reminded her of how vulnerable schools are.

“Chances are it’s just kids being kids," she told her son Dalton when she learned of the lock down. “But when will it not be that?”

It reminded her of an incident last year when a man pointed a gun at a student’s face on campus.

Still, she believes adding metal detectors and checking students’ backpacks might be overkill. She said most students are not a danger and should not be treated that as such.

Sheriff Al Nienhuis Provides Additional Update on Hernando High Lockdown.

Posted by Hernando County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, September 5, 2019

“In a way, it’s out of our hands,” she said. “We either keep our kids home and shelter them too much or send them out in the world.”

Brittany DuPhily, whose 16-year-old son Dylan is a junior at Hernando High, said she thinks metal detectors and more secure entrances are really the only ways to protect students. These incidents make her think about homeschooling him, but she knows she probably won’t do that.

She said her children have all grown up around firearms and know how to safely handle them ― and they definitely know not to bring one onto school property. She believes that parents should be held responsible for failing to teach their kids the same. She hopes it happens in this case.

Still, in an age where mass shootings are more and more prevalent, parents will always have reason to worry.

“This could happen any given time,” said DuPhily, 46. “It could be a parents worst nightmare.”

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