Updated, Aug. 30, 2016 at 4:30 a.m.: Some Bradford County School District parents said that they were not aware of the school closings in Bradford County due to a threatening voicemail directed toward Bradford Middle School.
Misty Key, 31, has two children who attend schools in Bradford County. Key said she did not receive a phone call from the Bradford County School District nor from Starke Elementary School and Bradford Middle School where her daughter and son attend respectively. She found out about the closure when arriving at Starke Elementary School to drop off her daughter. A police officer greeted her when she got there and told her about the threat.
Key said she recently moved to Bradford County and said she doesn’t know why she didn’t receive a phone call.
“I was disappointed that it was four weeks into the school year, and the school was being shut down,” Key said. “I was more disappointed that they’re relying on one system to make all these calls.”
Bradford County Superintendent of Schools Chad Farnsworth said there were very few people who didn’t get the call-out message of the school closure. He said it’s likely that the parents who didn’t receive a phone call have an outdated phone number.
“We encourage our parents to double check with the front office at their school to make sure we have their correct number on file,” he said.
Farnsworth said he would have liked to make a call-out around 9 p.m., but there is also a restriction on the school board’s system — calls cannot be made after a certain time.
“We have actually reached less people in the past when the call outs have been later at night,” he said. “We felt like we did a good job on social media, but unfortunately there were a few who were left unaware.“
As for the suspect, Starke Police Department Maj. Barry Warren said the Bradford Middle School student who made the threat is facing charges of making a felony bomb threat, a misdemeanor charge of interfering with school administration functions, and felony intimidating and threatening a witness.
Starke Police Department worked with the Alachua County Sheriff Office, Bradford County Sheriff’s Office, and the Gainesville Police Department in an effort to detain the suspect. Starke police are forwarding his charges to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice to see if he qualifies for detentions.
Warren said the 15-year-old male student, whose name was not released, confessed to the threat after one of his friends turned him into police. Warren said the suspect had been making threats to his friend.
“His friend knew it wasn’t right,” Warren said. “So, thank God he came forward.”
Farnsworth said he hopes the consequences facing the student will prevent others from doing this in the future.
“That’s our goal — is to break the cycle and to make sure they’re getting a safe education and move forward with a prosperous life,” Farnsworth said.
Not all parents expressed issues with how officials handled the situation. Tasha Holloway, a Bradford County resident, said she found out about the school closure on Facebook. She said she was worried but happy with local law enforcement.
“I think Bradford County Sheriff’s Office did what they should to handle the situation, and they’re doing an awesome job,” she said.
Updated, 12:22 p.m.: A 15-year-old Bradford County School District student is accused of making Sunday’s threat against Bradford Middle School and will face expulsion.
The student was turned in by a friend this morning, according to a press conference this afternoon with Starke Police Department Maj. Barry Warren and Bradford County School District Superintendent Chad Farnsworth.
Bradford schools will reopen tomorrow with increased security, officials said at the press conference.
Updated, 12:01 p.m.: The Starke Police Department has a person in custody connected to the threat made to Bradford Middle School on Sunday night.
Because it’s a juvenile, no name will be released, Starke police told WUFT.
Original story, Aug. 29, 2016 at 9:26 a.m.:
The Bradford County School District shut down its schools for today after Starke’s Bradford Middle School received a threat by voicemail on Sunday night.
The nature of the threat is not yet known.
Parents were notified by phone of the closures about 6 a.m. today, when the district’s robo-call system sent out the notice that schools would be closed, according to the district’s Facebook page. On the page, the district posted about 11:30 p.m. Sunday night saying that schools would be closed today.
Many of those who commented on the page were grateful that the district was taking the threat seriously, while others indicated that they were upset that the robo-call system did not notify them earlier.
WUFT News will provide more information as it becomes available.
Daniela Hurtado contributed reporting.