Three students are locked up in Bradley County after allegedly threatening to shoot up their school, according to the sheriff's office, and another student was jailed after a social media threat against Meigs County High School.
School officials and law enforcement around the nation are on the alert after the deadly violence that took 17 lives at a south Florida high school this week. The Washington Post reported Friday that copycat threats were rife on Snapchat and other social networks, though most appear to be hoaxes.
It's not clear whether the three Bradley Central High School students were playing a prank. Sheriff Eric Watson said in a statement that his office "investigates all threats and will not tolerate any threats towards our kids, schools, and this community – even if the threat was said as a joke."
Bradley sheriff's office spokesman Lt. James Bradford said multiple witnesses reported the threats to school resource officer Robbie Hair and to Watson. The students were taken to the juvenile center and are awaiting a court appearance.
Bradford said the sheriff's office had heard rumors Thursday night of a threat on social media but determined they were unfounded.
Multiple media outlets reported the Meigs County High School student was arrested around 12:30 a.m. Friday after a threat of violence at the school was posted. Other students helped identify the person who posted the threat, media reports said.
McMinn County law enforcement was on alert after a social media post showed a person with a rifle, but Sheriff Joe Guy said his office couldn't substantiate a threat.
In a Facebook post, Guy wrote: "Several vague posts showing a rifle have floated around social media overnight, and some have worried this was a threat to schools. [We have] investigated this all night. This was not a direct threat to any school. We believe this to be just a post someone started as a prank. Several other agencies in other counties have seen a similar post."
Guy added, "You may see some extra sheriffs deputies at McMinn schools today..this is just to reassure students and parents that your safety is our number one priority."
A spokesman for Rutherford County Schools also said false rumors have been spreading to parents and students, but no credible threats have been made.
In a message sent to parents Friday, spokesman James Evans wrote, "Law enforcement has been investigating all morning and has learned these rumors are being spread nationally and that we have some students who are perpetuating these in an attempt to get out of school today."
He said safety is a priority and all threats are reported, and he asked parents to "please speak to your children about the importance of not spreading false information about threats. Doing so causes nothing but panic and disruption to the educational environment."