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Updated: Threatening message prompts school response

After a student’s “threatening” Twitter message went viral, extra law enforcement has been called to East Rowan High School and will stay on campus the rest of the week, a school system official said today.
Rita Foil, spokeswoman for the school system, said the student who left the message has been identified and will be dealt with according to the school system code of conduct.
“Certainly it’s been taken very seriously and … we take student safety very seriously,” she said.
Capt. John Sifford of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said the student was suspended at least through the first of the year.
“Apparently it started on Friday,” Sifford said. “More or less in his comments, he said, since it appears the world is going to end, maybe he should just go and start shooting people.”
The student “was adamant that he was playing around and didn’t mean it,” he said. Sifford said the comments didn’t include any specifics about individuals and did not reference the school.
Authorities were made aware after a group of students approached the school’s resource officer and told him about the message. Deputies said the student posted the Tweet around the middle of last week and quickly took it down after a family member saw it.
A second incident happened at the school Tuesday, a report said, during a class discussion of the fabled apocalypse on Dec. 21.
A student told the group that “he was prepared to protect himself and his family if he had to” in the event of an end-of-the-world scenario. The student was later removed from class and questioned by administrators about the comments, the report said.
He was later allowed to return to class.
Rita Foil said the school has a full-time resource officer, but four or five law enforcement officers will remain on campus through Friday — when school lets out for the winter break — so students feel safe.
Foil said the student posted the message on the social networking site Twitter and it “kind of went viral,” apparently passed on by other students on sites including Facebook.
“We do not believe at this point there was any reason to believe this was a valid threat, but still that does not minimize the serious manner in which we’re taking it and proceeding with it,” she said.
East Rowan High was not locked down, she said. But the principal has sent a message to parents alerting them to the investigation and extended police presence, which Foil said is in part to calm nerves already frayed by last week’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
“In light of what happened Friday, everyone is really scared and concerned, and we’re taking all that into consideration and want to make sure parents and students feel safe at school,” she said.

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