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Our Opinion: Public and police unite against a school threat
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Our Opinion

Our Opinion: Public and police unite against a school threat

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These are the times we live in.

On the same day a 15-year-old boy was charged with murder in a fatal shooting at Mount Tabor High School, an 18-year-old student was arrested in Jamestown after five Guilford County high schools had received violent threats on social media.

In Winston-Salem, Maurice T. Evans Jr. appeared at a hearing in juvenile court Tuesday morning, where a judge denied a request by Evans’ attorney that he be released into the custody of his parents.

Evans is accused of fatally shooting a Mount Tabor student, William Chavis Renard Miller Jr., outside a classroom on Sept. 1 and may be tried as an adult.

The community remains shaken and unnerved by the incident, which we knew could happen anywhere but had hoped and prayed would not happen here.

On Tuesday afternoon in High Point, a potential reprise of the tragedy at Mount Tabor was averted, thanks to quick responses by both the community and police.

Acting on a variety of tips from parents, teachers, students and others, High Point police say they had identified a Southwest Guilford High School student, Kayshaun Williams, as the source of the threats by 11 p.m. Monday.

Posts on the photo and video messaging app Snapchat featured photos of pistols and rifles and targeted Southwest, Andrews, Southern, Southeast and Northeast with threats.

Police charged Williams with false report of mass violence on educational property, a felony. At press time, he was still being held in the Guilford County jail in High Point with his bail set at $250,000, the News & Record’s Jamie Biggs reported.

Police found no firearms at Williams’ home and said the Snapchat images of guns had been copied from the internet.

But, as the awful outcome at Mount Tabor made clear, every threat must be taken seriously.

And the community did precisely that.

High Point Police Chief Travis Stroud stressed the importance of the public’s help at a news conference.

Police also closely coordinated with Guilford County Schools officials to take the necessary safety precautions.

Police do not suspect any gang connections to the threats. But one common thread in this case and the shooting at Mount Tabor is the motivation. Both instances appear to be rooted in personal conflicts.

At a hearing last week in the case of Maurice Evans, Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill said the Mount Tabor shooting resulted from a long-time dispute.

Similarly, High Point Police Capt. Curtis Cheeks cited “a personality conflict between Williams and unidentified students.”

Where are our children learning that the best way to settle differences is to shoot someone?

Is this the example that we’re setting as adults?

As for the five schools that appeared as targets on Snapchat, the speed and coordination of the reaction by police and school officials was impressive.

So was the critical role the public played.

We’ve heard time and again from police that they are most effective when the community supports and aids their efforts. This was a perfect example of that.

As for whether Kayshaun Williams would have at some point acted on his threats, it appears not. But given the troubling level of gun violence in our community, who can know for sure?

There has been a spate of false threats to North Carolina schools in the wake of the Mount Tabor shooting.

Just this week, a 17-year-old in Johnston County was taken into custody after being accused of posting threats against three high schools, the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Thursday. Authorities say they do not consider the threats credible.

Also this week, one other school in Johnston County and at least six schools in Wake County received phone threats that later were determined to be hoaxes.

Even though lockdowns cost instructional time and cause unnecessary anxiety, police have to take all threats as the real thing until they can confirm otherwise.

The people who make these calls also need to be held accountable. This is not a game.

As for the Guilford County threats, the fact that the community and police partnered so quickly and so effectively was encouraging and reassuring.

The fact that they had to was not.

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