Schools respond to threat misinformation

A Guin police vehicle is parked outside of Guin Elementary School on Thursday, April 27, while schools within Marion County were on a “soft lockdown,” due to misinformation on social media regarding threats made to Phil Campbell High School the previous day.

MARION COUNTY — Marion County schools took safety precautions last Thursday, April 27, after social media response to a threat made on social media towards a school in another county.
Earlier last week, threats were made against Phil Campbell High School in Franklin County.  
According to Marion County Schools Superintendent Ann West, even though Phil Campbell is not in Marion County, someone created a post on the social media app Snapchat to say that children should not be in school that day because of the threats to Phil Campbell.
West said that while there was no threat against Marion County schools, each school did put some extra security measures in place out of an abundance of caution.
“There was a social media threat made to a neighboring county school system earlier this week,” West said in an official statement. “Someone posted Wednesday night saying that, because of that threat, Marion County Schools students should not attend school on Thursday. Our local law enforcement was made aware of the situation.  I asked principals to operate on a soft lockdown, which means they can still change classes. 
“I sent a call out at 6 a.m. on Thursday morning to make parents aware of the situation. We had several children that stayed at home (Thursday) and those absences were excused. Marion County Schools were not included in the threat.”
West said she hopes those who caused the disruption to the school system will be held accountable.
“This shows how false information can spread rapidly on social media and disrupt a school day,” West said. “I don’t know if we will ever know who started the false information, but, if we do, I hope that they will be punished.”
A school going into soft lockdown typically means there is no imminent danger to students and that classroom instruction can continue, but classroom doors are locked and students must be escorted by a teacher if they leave the classroom.
The Hackleburg Police Department posted a response on Facebook last week after the threats to Phil Campbell were first reported.
“The Hackleburg Police Department is aware of a second threat made to Phil Campbell school this evening,” the post read. “We have been in contact with the Phil Campbell police department, and it's under investigation at this time, but there was no threat made toward any Marion County school in that threat. We are aware of a Snapchat post going around saying to not go to school for Marion County schools, but at this time, there has been no threat toward them. We will keep all up to date.”
On Thursday, Hackleburg Police Chief Kenny Hallmark made a Facebook post on the police department’s page informing people that the police would be at the school, and he also called out the misleading post.
“The Hackleburg Police Department will be at school this morning to try and ease people's minds,” Hallmark said. “The school will be on soft lock down this morning, and we will have an officer stationed at the school and at all our sporting events. We will continue to make our kids our priority, and we will try and find who made this erroneous post last night about a threat being made to Marion County Schools, as there has been no threat toward any Marion County schools during the Phil Campbell threats. Again thank you for your patience during this matter.”
Guin Elementary School Principal Joshua Weatherly said the school is normally on soft lockdown just for the added security, anyway.
“Based on that threat, we just made sure the teachers were aware and the police were aware,” he said. “So we’re pretty much doing what we normally do usually, but we’ve had the police and sheriff’s department stop by.”
Guin Police Chief Daryl Spencer was at the elementary school that morning and said he was notified about 4:45 that morning,
and said he planned to stop by the school just to be safe. Spencer said Winfield assisted by sending officer Dustin Webb, who went to the high school. Spencer added he wanted to thank the Winfield Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff’s Department for their help that day.
Winfield City High School Principal Adam Aldridge and the Winfield Board of Education said that Winfield followed it’s usual day-to-day safety protocols since the threat was only targeted toward Phil Campbell.
“As a system, we were aware of the threats made at Phil Campbell, and we followed our safety protocol as we do on a daily basis,” Aldridge and the board said in a statement. “Safety of our students, faculty and staff is of the utmost importance to us, and we continuously communicate with local law enforcement to ensure that everyone is on the same page to prevent and react to any issues that may arise.”

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