MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — An online threat disrupted classes at North Middle School and two neighboring schools in Martinsburg Tuesday. Police say there is no immediate threat to students and the superintendent of schools revealed a ten year old boy from Michigan may have been the culprit.
Berkeley County Schools informed the public of police presence earlier in the day after an online threat directed at a specific student had been reported.
The school system advised that parents had been notified and a police would be investigating and would be ‘present’ at the school. At the time of the original posting, students at North and nearby Opequon Elementary School and Eagle School Intermediate were placed on Code Orange and as a result, remained inside the building. Around 1:30 the schools returned to Code Green, according to a BCS announcement, which said in part, “We want to let you know that police visited classrooms at North Middle, spoke to students & staff seeking assistance to identify a suspect. Following these classroom visits, students returned to code green at approximately 1:27pm.”
Twenty minutes later, though, the school system said on the advice of law enforcement, North Middle would remain on Code Orange through the school day.
Martinsburg Police Chief Erin Gibbons said law enforcement was dispatched and a “thorough investigation was launched” when they got the initial report of a social media threat targeting a NMS student.
Among those responding with MPD were task force members and the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office as well as federal partners. Gibbons said a thorough search of the premises was conducted.
Police determined there was no active threat at the middle school, although Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Ron Stephens, in a letter to parents yesterday, said a 10 year old from Michigan has been identified as the perpetrator of the threat. “As of this message to you, a 10-year old male from Michigan has been identified as a suspect, and our local law enforcement partners continue to work with Michigan agencies on this situation.”
Superintendent Stephens thanked the community for its support and patience with any transportation delays involving the schools on Tuesday.
His full comments:
“BCS Families, Staff, and Community,
First, I want to thank our students, staff, families, and community for their patience and preparedness during a difficult and evolving situation. As a parent, I know how hard it can be to wait for information and updates when you are worried about the safety of your loved ones. I want you to know that the safety of our students and staff is always our priority.
Today, Martinsburg North Middle School was placed on a Code Orange after being made aware of an online threat toward a specific student. Law enforcement was immediately notified and began an investigation, including visits to our classrooms and working with students and staff to help identify a suspect. As of this message to you, a 10-year old male from Michigan has been identified as a suspect, and our local law enforcement partners continue to work with Michigan agencies on this situation.
Our school district is blessed by the support of local and state law enforcement agencies and emergency personnel who answer our immediate calls for assistance regardless of the reason. We will always treat these threats, as well as false reports to social media, as real and will investigate and prosecute when the situation allows.
Threats against our schools, students, and staff have a ripple effect. Not only do they steal valuable educational time from those who want and deserve an opportunity to learn, but they can create concerns at neighboring schools that may be asked to observe a safety code as a precaution, and as we experienced today, transportation delays for multiple schools and families.
I know parents/caregivers want instant information when a situation unfolds. Please know that we are working quickly behind the scenes to gather credible facts that can be shared. In situations involving a specific school, we will provide information to that school community first when we are able to do so. I recognize that often, our community feels we should provide more detail. Please recognize that, as a school district, we cannot share the same types of details that a law enforcement agency or organization may be able to share.
As a reminder, please take the opportunity to speak with your students about the appropriate and responsible use of social media and the associated consequences of poor decisions. Also, remind your students, as the student did today, that reports to adults are imperative when they see or hear concerning information.
Thank you for your messages of support and feedback today. We have many days remaining in the school year, and we must work together to provide the best educational experience for our students with limited distractions.”