The committee was formed as part of a partnership between Wilson County law enforcement agencies, Wilson County Schools and the Lebanon Special School District. It’s comprised of teachers, parents, youth services staff and members from the District Attorney’s office. The group will meet quarterly to address specific concerns from the community and identify new safety initiatives.
Wilson County sheriff’s Lt. Scott Moore said the committee was formed as a reaction to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February.
“[This committee’s] about sharing intel. It’s about talking about certain trends, because students, teachers, parents may see stuff out there that, as a law enforcement agency we’re not seeing,” said Moore.
According to Moore, in the few days following the Parkland, Florida, shooting, 18 people were arrested in Wilson County for threatening school shootings.
“After the Parkland shooting, we had numerous threats made,” said Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan. “We got on top of them pretty quick, but what we found was once we got to their house, the parents had no clue of what their kids were doing.”
In just the two to three days after the shooting, the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office made 9 arrests related to school threats. Most of the threats were made through social media.
“I would say a higher percent of those were made through social media and/or an app,” said Moore. “You got, Snapchat, something like that on Instagram. We had several on Instagram. We also had a couple that were just sitting at the lunch room table saying that they were going to go to a planned pep rally and they said they were going to go in with explosives and blow up everybody at the pep rally.”
Despite the fact that most of the people who made threats later said they were jokes, Moore said they take it very seriously.
“We don’t care if you’re joking or not,” he said. “If you’re joking, it causes public alarm. Everybody is on the edge of their seat because there were just multiple casualties and fatalities in Parkland, Florida. It’s something we’re not just going to sit around and joke about.”
According to Moore, the number of threats went down exponentially after the department unveiled an anonymous reporting app, where students, parents or teachers could report anyone who they felt was a threat.
“The reason why we set this up was, through several of these investigations that we did, we found that some parents, some students and other people had knowledge of stuff that they never told us about,” said Bryan. “That we could have put this fire out three days ago if someone would have said something. So we’d go to people and ask them what knowledge they had about these, and they’d say, ‘Well, we just didn’t want to get in trouble.’ That’s what this is for.”
To report a threat or suspicious activity, you can go to wcso95.org/schooltip, which will be sent directly to law enforcement. Filling out the form is considered an official report to law enforcement, therefore any intentional false information reported will be considered a violation of state law and may result in being charged with a crime.