Two more students were arrested at St. Martin Middle School on Thursday morning as part of an investigation into threats to “shoot up” the school, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell reports.
This brings the number of arrests since Saturday to five, and all the students are 13-year-old students, Ezell said in press releases.
The sheriff’s department said Thursday the threats are being made by word of mouth and on social media, specifically Facebook.
Both the sheriff and Jackson County School District stress that there are serious consequences for students who threaten the schools.
Under the recently passed Senate Bill 2141, threats and statements like these are considered felonies, Ezell said, and arrests will continue if threats of violence against the school continue. It is not a defense to prosecution that the person making the terroristic threat “did not have the intent or capability” to carry it out, the bill says.
The penalty is up to 10 years in prison.
Superintendent Barry Amacker said the school district always has tight security for football games, and he said they will have extra security for Friday’s football game at St. Martin High School against Harrison Central.
Parents have contacted the Sun Herald to say they aren’t receiving the kind of updates they want from the school about specific threats, and their children are “terrified” to go to school.
The district has made automated call to parents’ phones daily with messages from the principal, Amacker said.
He spent “considerable” time at the school Tuesday, he said, and saw groups of police in the hallways working on the investigation.
“We’ve modified the schedule here and there to cooperate with the investigation,” he said.
He returned Thursday morning and said he saw two police motorcycles and several marked and unmarked police cars cars.
“The sheriff department’s done an amazing job,” Amacker said.
The first arrest came Saturday during a school homecoming dance, after the student allegedly threatened gun violence at the school. Two more students were arrested Tuesday for making threats, and the latest arrests on Thursday are in connection with the threats made Tuesday, Ezell said.
Amacker said if parents have concerns they can call the school district or contact him personally at 228-826-1757 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The district has had resource officers for the schools, he said, and budgeted this year to expand security by also hiring a private company.
“That will be happening within the next few days,” he said, and throughout the district to St. Martin, Vancleave and East Central schools.