After Central High threats, superintendent answers questions

Published 12:47 am Thursday, October 19, 2023

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Over the span of less than two weeks, Central High has gone into lockdown twice, after receiving threats. This part everyone knows. Everyone also knows it was not the only school this happened at, with similar events taking place in Martinsville, Salem and Rockbridge, to just name a few. But as this makes three threats and respective lockdowns at the school so far this year, Lunenburg parents have raised a couple questions. New Lunenburg County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sharon Stanislas agreed to sit down with The Dispatch and answer as many as possible. 

First off, parents were concerned about being notified. They asked if there was any way the school could inform them in the same way as when games are canceled. Dr. Stanislas pointed out and The Dispatch can confirm that a letter from the superintendent and Central High Principal Michelle Howell went out as soon as the status of the situation was determined. 

“Additionally, parents were notified via instant alert, email and text,” Stanislas said. 

To be clear, if a parent didn’t get notified in any of these ways, it means their email or phone number is not on record with the district to receive that specific alert. To fix that, and this goes not just for Central High but across the district, parents just need to reach out to their student’s school administration and make sure they have the right number on file, school district officials say. 

A look at the district’s policy

Some Central High parents had also messaged The Dispatch, asking what the school policy is when something like a bomb threat happens. And Dr. Stanislas points out the policy is the same for not just Central, but every school in the district. 

“Lunenburg County Public Schools has safety protocols in place for addressing emergency situations and we will continue to follow them, and review and revise them as needed,” Stanislas said. 

Part of that is as simple as working with both school resource officers and the Lunenburg County Sheriff’s Office to investigate. A lockdown is put in place while the investigation is happening, to err on the side of caution. Based on the nature of the threat, school officials then decide if any activities or athletic events need to be postponed. When a notice about a lockdown or situation at the school goes out, that part of the protocol is explained as well. It also gets posted on the school’s social media accounts. To go a bit further into this, neither the school district nor the Lunenburg County Sheriff’s Office will go into specific detail about an active investigation. That’s why, as some parents questioned, the statements from the school were vague about the threat. They’re not going to provide details that could impact the investigation, while one is ongoing. 

“We would like for all stakeholders to understand that the division takes the safety of their staff and students very seriously,” Stanislas said. 

What’s next at Central High? 

And that brings us to the final question. What happens next? This is one the school district can’t help with. While no arrests have been made in any of those cases, the situation has changed somewhat. It’s no longer just a local case involving sheriff’s deputies. Each of the cases appear to be the same, at least in how the threat was delivered. It’s drawn some state attention as a result. 

“The Virginia State Police is aware of and tracking the various local law enforcement agencies that responded to bomb threats called in to local schools across the Commonwealth,” said Corinne Geller. She serves as Public Relations Director for the Virginia State Police.

Geller and other law enforcement officials pointed out that anyone calling in or otherwise making a threat to a school or schools could face felony charges. Last year when this happened in Lunenburg, in September 2022, a 30-year-old Emporia man was arrested and charged, later convicted of one felony count of Communicating a Threat to Cause Injury to Persons on School Property. Even if the person is charged with a misdemeanor, they can face up to 120 days in jail for making such a threat. 

With no arrests yet, the Lunenburg County Sheriff’s Office says the investigation is ongoing. And Stanislas said she and her staff will keep working with law enforcement. 

“We will continue to work with our sheriff’s department and other local law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of our staff and students,” Stanislas said.