‘This is not a game:’ Pender sheriff talks seriousness of making school threats

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Pender County’s sheriff is asking young people to think twice before making threats against classmates and schools. This comes after a threat resulted in a teenager being arrested last week.

Since the 2018 school shooting Parkland, Florida, the Pender County Sheriff’s Office has seen an increase in threats made toward area schools.

“We were seeing a lot more frequency with it. COVID closed the schools down for awhile,” PCSO spokesman Captain James Rowell said. “This all kind of went away. Now, students are back in and we’re starting to see the uptick again.”

Last week, a teen was arrested for allegedly threatening to shoot up Heide Trask High School and Hoggard High School. With the recent rise, Sheriff Alan Cutler says he could only speculate the cause.

“People see things happen on the news. It may cause them to want to get a little attention themselves,” Cutler said. “But that’s why we want to stress the seriousness of it. This is not a game.”

PCSO says the threats have very real consequences. Students could be charged with a felony, serve time in jail, and lose rights to things like voting, hunting and fishing licenses, and the ability to apply to certain jobs.

“We give them these telephones and these computers and turn them loose, but they’re children,” Rowell said.

Rowell says it is important to report the threats to police, not repost them.

“Everybody that screenshots it and shares it could be in violation of it,” Capt. Rowell said.

Officials add that threats not only waste law enforcement and school district’s valuable time and resources, they cause fear in parents, staff, and students.

Rowell says PCSO takes each threat seriously to protect the students.

“I look at every one of these kids like I do my own,” Rowell said. “I’m over the SRO division. I don’t want to have something happen where we drop the ball and something bad happens at our school.”

According to Cutler, deputies on last week’s Heide Trask High threats worked hours overnight when the threats originally came in. The student who admitted to making those threats was taken into custody.

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