Surry, Sussex Schools cancel afternoon activities for remainder of week following threats

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: January 9, 2019 | 12:36 p.m.

SURRY & SUSSEX COUNTIES – Both Sussex and Surry County school divisions have moved to cancel all afternoon activities for the remainder of the week following social media threats that resulted in law enforcement investigations locally.

In an automated message to parents, Surry Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Thornton confirmed the cancelation, stating, “The safety of our students and staff remain our top priority.” A Sussex County Public Schools representative confirmed they too were canceling all after-school activities for the remainder of the week.

According to authorities, law enforcement was made aware by a student of posts on social media platform Instagram that said both Surry and Sussex schools need to “beware” and threatened to “shoot up the school system” in both counties on Monday, with additional threats being made the next day.

Tuesday, school officials in both counties canceled after-school activities after more threats were received.

In his statement to parents Wednesday, Thornton worked to reassure parents after the troubling events of the week.

“Please be assured that nothing is more important to me, the school division, and law enforcement than the safety and well-being of your children and our students,” he said, adding that a K-9 search of all three of Surry’s schools was conducted earlier Wednesday morning by Virginia State Police before students arrived for classes and “no concerns were detected” during their search.

In addition, Thornton confirmed an increased law enforcement presence inside and around their schools.

“Law enforcement’s investigation of the source of the threats is ongoing,” Thornton said. “As such, we will continue with the cancellation of after-school activities for the remainder of this week.”

He continued, “I know that this experience has been unsettling and of great concern to you and our school community. Please know that we are appreciative of your cooperation as we continue to ensure the safety and security of our schools, students, and staff.”

Speaking with The Sussex-Surry Dispatch reporter Terry Harris yesterday, Surry County Sheriff Carlos Turner said, “We continue to work with the Sussex Sheriff’s office trying to ascertain where the threats are coming from and their validity. We have safety measures in place and extra deputies at all three Surry County schools and on campus for the remainder of the week.”

Sheriff Giles and Sheriff Turner each indicated that they want to assure parents that the safety of the students is their number one concern. Both school systems have a regular policy of keeping the entrance doors secured so that visitors cannot walk into the buildings without being admitted, and both sheriffs stressed that there is a continuous law-enforcement presence in the schools involved.

In addition, Sussex County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Arthur Jarrett told Harris, “Every year for the last four years something like this has come up around this time, but we are being cautious and keeping up with the situation. We are working hand in hand with law enforcement, including increased monitoring, supervising, and law enforcement presence at all schools.”

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