OCPS alerts parents to possible threat in local schools

OCPS Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said that in recent weeks many districts and states across the country have experienced an increase of students making false threats against their schools.

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The Orange County Public School district has alerted parents to possible threats circulating in local schools. 

On Thursday, Dec. 16, Horizon West Middle School Principal Michelle Thomas sent out an alert informing parents that the school had been made aware of a social media message circulating amongst students that contains a possible threat.

Although Thomas said the message does not indicate a specific reference to the school or any school, the district and its members are taking certain safety precautions. 

OCPS Superintendent Barbara Jenkins recently made it clear that the district takes these threats seriously in a message sent to OCPS families on Saturday, Dec. 11. 

"Like many districts and states across the country, in recent weeks we have experienced an increase of students making false threats against their schools," Jenkins said. "Some may think of it as a prank, but we take it seriously and must engage a formal threat assessment when we become aware of the threat."

Jenkins said it doesn't matter if the threat is texted, written, snapchatted or posted on social media, children who make threats can face serious consequences according to the Code of Student Conduct and through law enforcement. 

"Nobody wants a police visit to their house over a foolish prank," Jenkins said. "It also means a waste of precious resources and undue stress on students and staff."

HWMS said school administrators and law enforcement are currently investigating the origin of the posts.

"Please remind your child that the best way to handle a safety concern is to talk to me or any adult on campus, or report it on the Fortify Florida app," Thomas said. "This will help us address concerns quickly as well as avoid the spread of misinformation and rumors. Thank you for your continued support." 

Jenkins also reminded parents of certain safety precautions such as speaking to their students regarding safety expectations and remembering to check their students backpacks for items that are not allowed on school property. 

"Student or parents should inform school staff immediately if they hear of any threat or suspicious activity," Jenkins said. 

The Superintendent also touched upon school safety in the OCPS Community Update on Thursday, Dec. 16. 

Jenkins stated that although there is not a determined causal relationship, a few weeks ago the United States Surgeon General warned of an emerging youth mental health crisis in his public advisory. 

The Surgeon General noted that national data indicates 25% of young people indicated suffering from depression and 20% say they have experienced anxiety. 

"Our school board and staff are focused on escalating mental health support for our students," Jenkins said in the update. 

The district included several community resources for mental health.

  • Call 2-1-1 and press 1 for the crisis help line
  • Text your zip code to 898-211 and type "requesting mobile crisis"
  • Chat at www.HFUW.org

To support school safety, Jenkins recommended parents to communicate with the school about any mental health concerns, monitor their student's social media and neighborhood interaction, check book bags and purses daily to monitor what is being brought to school, and talk to their student about safety issues, and the seriousness of threats. 

For more information and updates, visit the OCPS website. 





Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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