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After a violent week, rumors of a possible shooting at Godby caused parents to panic as law enforcement tried to calm the fears

School building, brick
COCA Tallahassee
Godby High School in Tallahassee, Fla.

Leon school officials are frustrated and fed up. So is law enforcement. And so are parents. Recent local gun violence issues have spilled over into county schools.

The frustration over fears of school violence erupted Thursday at Godby High School after nothing actually happened. But the rumors of a potential incident at the school were enough to send worried parents rushing to the school to pick up their kids. It also led the Leon County Sheriff's Office to call a press conference. Thursday’s events cap a week of reports of fights and guns at school at both Leon High and Godby High.

Here's the timeline of events:

  • Tuesday, two girls get into a fight at Godby High School.
  • Wednesday, a Leon High School student is arrested after getting caught with a gun on campus that he’d previously shown off on social media.
  • Also Wednesday: about a dozen boys at Godby begin fighting—spillover caused by Tuesday’s incident. The school goes into temporary lockdown. Students and faculty are on edge.
  • By Thursday, there's a heavy law enforcement presence on the school's campus. But before classes can really get underway, a Godby parent takes to Facebook to issue a warning. In a post, he says his son has warned him about a potential shootout at the school.

That post sends parents into a panic and they start arriving at Godby in droves, surprising the administrators and law enforcement officers.

“Parents, rightfully so, they’re anxious, concerned, maybe even scared," Godby Principal Desmond Cole told WFSU. In an interview, Cole said he didn't know the exact number of parents that took their kids out of school Thursday but said the figure was “significant.”

100 year-old brick building with football field in front
Alejandro Santiago
WFSU Public Media
Leon County High School in Tallahassee, Fla. Wednesday, a Leon High School student was arrested after getting caught with a gun on campus that he’d previously shown off on social media.

“We totally understood. And when parents were coming through today we were talking to them, trying to reassure them…we’re upset that a few have caused others to suffer," said Cole.

As parents rushed to Godby to get their kids, the Leon County Sheriff's Office held a press conference trying to calm the situation.

“There’s no substantiated information that led to that post," Deputy Wiley Meggs told reporters gathered at the sheriff's office. "Everything the poster found was 3rd and 4th hand…He heard from a student who heard from another student to another student…but before we were alerted or the school was alerted, they [the original poster] put it on social media…before we could determine if there was credibility to it.”

The panic was further fueled Thursday when, at some point, a video started circulating on social media with a different person holding a large magazine drum and saying he would be going to school Monday. The sheriff's office has described that person as a male student and has confirmed he does NOT attend Godby, but what school they do go to remains unknown. Wiley says the department is trying to identify the person in the video to figure out what it means. Monday, noted Meggs, is a holiday.

“There was no specific threat that says hey, 'I'm going to shoot up the school.' He says he's going to school and it appears he has a weapon on his person. What appears to be a drum magazine—it's just a magazine and there's no weapon attached. It's still under investigation and we have to keep looking at it. There could be charges, depending on his age and criminal history, depending on if he's found with a weapon. But for the video specifically, I don't believe there's a specific enough threat to create a charge, but we have to see how it turns out."

Earlier this week, Leon Superintendent Rocky Hanna announced its school resource officers and school guardians would be on campus during after-school hours. And in December, the district announced it would start using a dog to sniff out guns on campuses, along with metal wand detectors to search schools. There’s also a new anonymous alert system for middle and high schools that can send notifications about potentially dangerous situations.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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