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Hoax school shooting calls made nationwide, including South Carolina, deputies say

Schools from the Upstate to the Lowcountry were affected by the calls on Wednesday.

LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. — Two Lancaster County schools are being checked out by deputies after reports of a shooter on campus Wednesday, but officials say there appear to be no signs of a shooting. Several other agencies also say this appears to be part of a larger  trend of likely hoax calls.

According to a post on the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office page on Facebook, deputies were on hand at South Middle School and Brooklyn Springs Elementary School to ensure buildings were secure. As of publication, deputies reported no injuries and that there was no indication of a shooting.

Deputies said there would be heavy traffic in the area with emergency services. Both campuses are close to each other.

The Lancaster County School District told WCNC Charlotte in a statement "Law enforcement and LCSD District officials are on campus at South Middle School investigating what appears to be a false report. The building is secure and law enforcement is searching the building. The students are safe."

There is heavy emergency services traffic in the area of South Middle School and Brooklyn Springs Elementary School. We...

Posted by Lancaster County Sheriff's Office SC on Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The sheriff's office later provided a timeline, saying they responded to both campuses just after 11:30 a.m. from the middle school. Deputies and officers from the Lancaster Police Department cleared the campus building-by-building and found no active threat. 

The school days continued throughout the district, and parents were discouraged to pick up students. However, parents who did choose to take students home were advised to drive into the car rider line in an orderly fashion.

LCSD provided this statement later in the afternoon:

Law enforcement and other emergency agencies, as well as district administrators, responded to South Middle around 11:30 a.m. today for a reported shooting. Fortunately, the report was determined to be a hoax and no one was ever in danger. Once the situation was assessed and the campus was secure, we notified parents via emergency texts and Blackboard Connect email.

 Everyone at South Middle School is safe. This was an extremely tough experience for everyone involved. We are thankful for the emergency responders, staff and students who worked as a team, and to the parents for their cooperation during this investigation. It appears we may have been one of many districts who had this same hoax occur today. 

We want to remind everyone that pranks like these are dangerous, disruptive, and tie up valuable emergency personnel. We encourage parents to talk with their kids about these types of pranks so we all understand the dangers and consequences of false reporting.

Neighboring Chesterfield County also appeared to have a similar hoax called into both Central High School and Chesterfield High School. The Chesterfield County Sheriff's Office shared a similar post to Facebook, assuring the public deputies were taking this seriously and were working to figure out who placed the calls.

South Carolina School Shooting Hoax Just a few minutes ago, a school shooting threat was called in to Central High...

Posted by Chesterfield County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday, October 5, 2022

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The threat calls were not isolated to South Carolina schools within the WCNC Charlotte viewing area, as several schools in the Palmetto State appear to have been targeted. Reporting from the Index-Journal newspaper in Greenwood said a similar threat at Greenwood High School also appeared to be a hoax. Jeffrey Collins, a reporter with the Associated Press in Columbia, also tracked several similar reports across the state.

Other schools involved in the calls ranged from schools in Greenville to campuses on the South Carolina coast. WCNC Charlotte's content partner WLTX-TV in Columbia confirmed Blythewood High School was the target of the hoax, and that it likely stemmed from a challenge on TikTok.

While the calls certainly affected schools across the state, the Chester County Sheriff's Office suggests this happened nationwide. In a statement shared on Twitter, deputies said dispatch centers across the country received similar calls. Deputies boosted their presence at Chester County schools out of an abundance of caution, and the Chester County School District has been advised to enact a secure lock-out at all campuses after they also received threats.

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York County deputies also labeled the calls as a hoax, deeming the calls part of a concerted "swatting" effort. The York County Sheriff's Office said only one school there so far has been the subject of such a call, and are working with other agencies to figure out who is making the calls.

NOTICE: We are closely monitoring a state-wide hoax of prank calls about shootings incidents at local schools. This hoax...

Posted by York County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Kenneth Trump with the National Schools Safety and Security Services told WCNC Charlotte that swatting has happened in many other states like Florida and Virginia. He suggested schools have a threat assessment team, a crisis communication system, and beef up security even when the threat is deemed not credible.

Trump added that police often find the threat-makers by tracking down their digital footprint. 

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division says it’s working with federal partners to investigate the threats. 

The South Carolina Coalition for Safer Schools also reacted to Wednesday's developments:

Across South Carolina today, thousands of students, educators, and families were terrorized by a rash of hoax phone calls reporting instances of gunshots fired on school campuses. In response, our state’s law enforcement professionals and educators put into practice the active shooter training that has sadly become a common and necessary part of life in American schools. While all reports of active shooters on campuses were fortunately found to be fake, the trauma inflicted on students, educators, families, and law enforcement officers and remains very real. 

A common desire to prevent this type of trauma from occurring provided the catalyst for the creation of the South Carolina Coalition for Safer Schools. As noted in the Coalition’s policy agenda, there is no single policy that can completely eliminate the threats and violence our children are facing in schools and communities. However, policies can mitigate and reduce violence in communities, while no policy can reverse the damage of violent acts after they occur. The calls that shut down our schools today were very much an act of violence, and this fact makes the need for leadership and proactive policy action more urgent now than ever.

 For this reason, the members of the SC Coalition for Safer Schools renew our call for local, state, and national leaders to give child well-being and safety the highest possible priority in their work. We call on candidates for elected office to clearly state the actions they plan to take to combat the seemingly endless cycle of violence against children in our society, and we call on voters to listen carefully to those plans and then cast their ballots for candidates that are giving child well-being the attention and urgency it deserves. 

Finally, we call on all South Carolinians to take steps in their local communities to keep our children safe. So many issues in our society divide, but the protection of children should be an issue that unifies. The children of our state need and deserve nothing less than our collective efforts to keep them safe. 

In a statement shared around 4 p.m. Wednesday, the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) confirmed they were looking at the credibility of the threats and was aware of them.

RELATED COVERAGE: Fake 911 call in Charlotte highlights potentially dangerous 'swatting' trend around the country

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