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Vague threat forces shutdown of Crenshaw Co. schools for second day

Published: Oct. 3, 2017 at 4:09 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 3, 2017 at 7:17 PM CDT
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Dr. Boyd English, superintendent (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Dr. Boyd English, superintendent (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

CRENSHAW COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - The entire Crenshaw County school system, as well as local private schools and a community college campus, were closed Tuesday after law enforcement came across an alarming social media post. Now, officials have announced that schools will also be closed Wednesday.

School superintendent Dr. Boyd English says the concerning message was uncovered in an uncommon way. English explained that typically, threats are discovered at the school level and then the principal notifies the school district and law enforcement. This particular threat was found by federal authorities who alerted the local law enforcement and the school system.

"It trickled down to us the opposite way this time," English said. "We were notified by authorities at the local level who received information from state and federal officials of a potential threat that caused some concern for the safety of our students and our faculty."

The school system issued this safety message Monday to notify parents that school would be closed Tuesday:

Safety is always our number one priority in our school system.  Information was shared with us this afternoon of a potential threat to a school.  The threat was not specific to any specific school.  The authorities notified us late this afternoon out of an abundance of caution and we felt that it was necessary to advise our parents and faculty of these developments.  Authorities are investigating the threat and hope to have more information within the next 24 hours.  Due to the uncertainty of the information that we have been provided and to be protective of our students and faculty as possible, school is canceled for tomorrow, Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017.  We will notify everyone as we receive updated information.  Again, law enforcement agencies are investigating the threat and are committed to safety for everyone in Crenshaw County.

The threat was not specific to a particular school or even to a particular system in Crenshaw County. Along with all public schools, Crenshaw Christian Academy and Lurleen B. Wallace Community College's Luverne campus were also closed Tuesday as a precaution, according to officials.

"We felt like the level was high enough for us to close school today in the best interest of our students and staff," Dr. English said.

He declined to comment any further on the post and what was said in it because it is under investigation.

"I would hate to reveal anything that would hinder that investigation. The only thing I can say is that we did get this nonspecific threat to do harm to a school in our area," he added.

The school system wants to give authorities time to identify and apprehend the person who made the post. Updates continued to be provided by Crenshaw County Schools on social media, their mobile app and on their website.

Dr. English commended law enforcement, for their work on the case for ensuring the safety of those in Crenshaw County.

"This has impacted all of us," he stated. "With everything that's going on nationally, rightfully so the authorities are taking this seriously."

The FBI is the lead agency on the investigation and they are working closely with the Crenshaw County Sheriff's Office and Luverne Police Department. An arrest has not been made.

"It's been a joint effort between all of the agencies here in Crenshaw County and the FBI. We've had the SBI call and offer their assistance," Crenshaw County Sheriff Mickey Powell said.

Sheriffs from other surrounding counties have also offered to help, if needed, and Powell said he appreciates the support.

"It makes you feel good in this day and time, with all of the stuff going on, everybody pitching in and helping each other. It goes a long way," he added.

He said information in the social media post related back to schools in Crenshaw County, but it was vague, leading to the decision to close all schools.

"It's better to be safe than sorry in a situation like this," the sheriff stated.

On Tuesday night, the school system revealed that the shutdown would continue on Wednesday:

We appreciate everyone's cooperation and understanding with our school system as we continue to press forward working with federal, state, and local authorities in addressing the threat that caused us to alter our school calendar and close school. Our efforts continue and we are working closely with authorities to gather the necessary information to return to our normal daily activities at each school campus. However, we must allow authorities additional time to continue their investigation and give us the necessary information needed to return to normal school operations in our school system.

For this reason, school will remain closed in the Crenshaw County School System on Wednesday, October 4, 2017. We would like to commend all agencies (federal, state, and local) for their efforts to ensure the safety of everyone in Crenshaw County each and every day. Again, we will do our best to update everyone as more details develop and are shared with us.

Whitney Ball's child attends New Covenant Christian Academy in Brantley. She said the threat and school closures have been the big talker across the county.

"It was horrifying because there were no details given about the situation. To not know full details is what's really rattling," she said. "Until we hear more information, I'm not sending my child back to school."

She supported the decision to close the schools.

"Just to be on the safe side. To err on the side of caution is always better than to have a school full of children and teachers and administrators there when a threat could happen," she added.

Copyright 2017 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.