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Long Reach school officials, Howard police address threats

Law Enforcement

Long Reach High School officials have been working with Howard County police this week because of threats that were heightened by social media, school principal David Burton said on Friday.

"There have been several incidents in the surrounding neighborhoods this week that students have been discussing during the school day," and several students were planning a "physical fight off campus" after school Friday" Burton said. "Discussions about this on social media escalated the situation."

Burton said those discussions included "rumors of a possible shooting" at Long Reach. Burton said he was emailing parents to "correct misinformation of a shooting" at the Columbia school.

"Those rumors are incorrect and we believe all students to be safe," he said.

Howard County Police Department spokeswoman Mary Phelan said that two Long Reach students had a dispute last weekend, and word of that dispute spread on social media "and led to police receiving information that fights were going to take place."

Burton said Long Reach had worked with police to have an increased presence at the school during dismissal on Friday. Phelan said extra patrols have been present at the school all week during dismissal.

On Friday school officials spoke with the students involved, conducted searches and sent several students home, Burton said.

Schools spokeswoman Rebecca Amani-Dove would not say how many students were sent home, what was located in the searches, or what, if any, discipline was administered to students.

Phelan said that because of the heightened awareness at the school, a teacher told administrators that a student might have been in possession of a weapon. That was investigated and found to be false, according to Phelan. Further investigation, however, did reveal two folding knives in the student's vehicle, Phelan said.

Phelan said the school system was disciplining the student, and police are considering possible charges.

Burton emailed parents Friday afternoon after dismissal. He said he has spoken to "many parents" to alleviate concerns.

"Please be assured that we take all threats seriously and have taken every precaution," he said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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