BOONE — No criminal charges will be brought after a possible shooting threat triggered a precautionary Code Red lockdown at Watauga High School in the morning of Friday, Sept. 13.
According to Watauga County Schools Superintendent Scott Elliott, the incident occurred when around 9:25 a.m., the school’s anonymous tip software system received a message from a student that heard a rumor of a potential shooting threat.
“They were able to quickly find out which student made the tip and that the student was reporting the rumor,” Elliott said. “Although there was no reason to believe the threat was credible, (WHS staff) were taking this seriously.”
Elliott said that WHS Principal Chris Blanton contacted him as soon as the potential threat was reported and that after Blanton consulted with the school’s resource officer, a Code Red lockdown was initiated.
Watauga High School has two levels of lockdown, Elliott said. The lower level, Code Yellow, is where students can go between classes, but can’t exit the building. Code Yellow is usually due to an incident in the nearby neighborhoods, Elliott explained. The higher level, Code Red, is when students are kept in their classrooms and the hallways are kept clear until law enforcement can sweep the school and property.
The Code Red was triggered due to the unknown nature of the potential threat in the school, Elliott said.
“In this day and age, we have to take all of these incidents seriously,” Elliott said. “Once we had enough law enforcement on scene and interview students to determine it wasn’t a legitimate threat.”
No criminal charges are going to be filed over the incident, Elliott said.
Elliott said that around 20 officers from Boone Police, Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, Appalachian State University Police and an officer from the N.C. State Bureau of Investigations were on scene during the lockdown.
At 10:12 a.m., Watauga County School stated that the lockdown was lifted. Elliott said he sent the Tweet immediately after law enforcement had swept the school.
“All clear at WHS,” the WCS Tweet stated. “Rumors of a threat of violence were investigated and now dispelled. School is now operating as normal. Thank you for your patience.”
For the remainder of the day, Elliott said that WHS has returned to a normal class schedule, but said three to five of the additional officers would stay possibly through the end of the day as a precaution.
“The school staff acted very quickly and it’s reflected in the drills that our students and staff participate in regularly throughout the year,” Elliott said. “The response from our local law enforcement was very quick and very throughout and we appreciate all support from our local law enforcement.”
The WHS lockdown is the second one at a local high school in the last 15 days. On Aug. 29, shooting threats were circulated via text message among Ashe County High School students. The school was under a “soft lockdown’ throughout the day with law enforcement patrolling the campus.
As of Sept. 13, Ashe County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Danny Houck told the Ashe Post & Times that the case was inactive.