On Sunday evening, Metter schools was initiated into a fraternity of sorts -- one whose membership requires schools to receive obscure, yet threatening messages that disrupt the school routine.
Within minutes of seeing the screenshot Sunday, Candler County School Superintendent Dr. Bubba Longgrear said he jumped into action, notifying law enforcement. While the message did not directly name the school system, Longgrear said, the threat was implied: “Metter fools, it’s my time to shine. You’re going to wish you stayed home tomorrow.”
And that ominous message carried enough threat to make many parents feel that it was best to keep their children home on Monday -- so many that less than a third of the Metter High students were in attendance.
“Attendance is significantly down today,” Longgrear reported on Monday. “The buses are thinner.”
Some parents who kept their children home responded to the school’s social media announcement by saying, “Sorry, but that is not enough information for me to chance it,” “My son is more important than to chance this,” and “What parent is gonna feel safe to send their kids to school?”
Law enforcement officials worked throughout the night on Sunday and again on Monday in an attempt to identify the threat.
There was a noticeable presence of law enforcement on Monday during the school day, but for the students in attendance, Longgrear said, “We’re having school today and we are being vigilant as always.”
Longgrear expressed his appreciation to Candler County Sheriff’s Office for their presence and prompt response to the threat.
“From the time we learned about this social media post, our investigators began looking into it,” Sheriff John Miles said. “They have conducted interviews and brought in state and federal resources to assist.
“When we find the person responsible, they will be held accountable,” said Miles. The individual will face felony terroristic threat charges, he added.
Investigators were still working throughout the night Monday and into Tuesday.
“Our investigators were out late last night again running down leads and conducting interviews,” said Sheriff’s Captain Justin Wells. “Sheriff Miles and deputies patrolled the halls and campus of the entire school complex Monday and Tuesday morning as our investigators continued to work the case.
“We have had assistance in the case from a number of federal, state and local agencies. We also had assistance from internet service providers and social media companies. We are continuing to investigate the case.
By Tuesday, Longgrear said attendance was back to about 90 percent and in the normal range for this time of year. And while there has been no arrest in the investigation, Longgrear said that school officials continue to follow the safety protocols the school has in place each and every day.
“We can’t guarantee anything, ever, but we take every threat seriously,” he said.
Social media threats have been on the rise in neighboring communities. As of Monday, Statesboro High was addressing a second social media threat, while a Southeast Bulloch High student was arrested Tuesday morning for terroristic threats.
On Sunday, Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a potential threat of violence issued through social media and an 18-year-old student was taken into custody, charged with felony terroristic threats and acts.
Sheriff Miles said that at this time, investigators have not ruled out any possible connection between any of these incidents.
Agencies involved in the investigation in Candler County include Candler County Emergency Management Agency, Candler County Board of Education, Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, GBI, Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center, US Department of Homeland Security, FBI, Statesboro Police Department, and Emanuel, Tattnall and Bulloch County Sheriff’s Offices.