Henry Clay student charged with making threat that led to rumor of violence

jwarren@herald-leader.comDecember 18, 2012 

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    Dear Henry Clay High School Families:

    Yesterday morning the Lexington Division of Police began investigating rumors of possible violence involving students at Henry Clay High School. We were not aware of any specific threat, detailed information, or suggestion that our students or staff were in any danger. We took additional safety precautions in the meantime, and as information was verified, we communicated the facts we had with students, staff and families. Law enforcement officials assured us that our students were safe.

    Police worked in conjunction with Fayette County Public Schools Law Enforcement officers throughout the day and traced the source of the rumor back to a single student. They took him into custody for questioning at 2:30 p.m. while the investigation continued. We were made aware late last night that he had been charged with terroristic threatening. According to police, the student made a statement that was threatening, but there was no imminent danger or specific threat. By the time we were able to clarify all the information we had, it was after midnight.

    In addition to the potential consequences the student will face through the court system, he will also face serious and appropriate administrative consequences through the school district.

    We want to be fully honest and transparent with our families, students, staff and school community, and we want you to know that you will receive important and factual information from us directly. Please know that our goal is to get you the most accurate verified information as quickly as we can, but sometimes rumors outpace the facts. We take any and all rumors seriously and we want to encourage students and families to let us know about any concerns they hear.

    Your child's safety is our top priority and we will always err on the side of caution. As we move forward from this incident, we will be working with Lexington Police officials to ensure that our families are made aware of safety issues in a timely manner. Thank you for the privilege of serving your family.

A Henry Clay High School student who is accused of making a threat against the school and another student has been charged with terroristic threatening, Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said.

The suspect, a 16-year-old boy, was arrested at 2 p.m. Monday, Roberts said.

A rumor about violence at the school spread through social media early Monday. School officials called it a false rumor, but that did not stop parents from keeping their kids home or removing them from school. By the end of the school day, school officials reported that more than 850 students, a third of the student body at Henry Clay, were not in attendance.

On Tuesday, district officials sent home an email to parents, saying there was no imminent danger or specific threat to students or staff.

The account in the e-mail, sent to all Henry Clay parents about noon Tuesday, appears to be in conflict with the Lexington police.

"We were not aware of any specific threat, detailed information or suggestion that our students or staff were in any danger," the district said in the e-mail. "Law enforcement officials assured us that our students were safe."

Roberts said officers have charged the student with making "specific threats against the school and individuals."

"We feel comfortable in knowing he did not have the resources or wherewithal to carry out the threat," she said, but that came after he was brought in for questioning.

"Before, we truly did not know if this individual had the ability to carry out this threat, so we had to treat it as if he did," she said.

The threat was made through another juvenile, she said.

The charge, one count of terroristic threatening, second degree, "is very specific that the threat has to involve death or injury and I will say in this case that the threat rose to the theory that it was a terroristic threatening charge," she said.

Because the suspect is a juvenile, Roberts said she couldn't be more specific.

The district's email says police took the 16-year suspect into custody for questioning at 2:30 p.m. Monday while an investigation into the incident was continuing.

"Police worked in conjunction with Fayette County Public Schools Law Enforcement officers through the day, and traced the source of the rumor back to a single student," the school system said. "We were made aware (Monday night) that he had been charged with terroristic threatening.

"According to police the student made a statement that was threatening, but there was no imminent danger or specific threat," the school system stated in its e-mail. "By the time we were able to clarify all the information we had, it was after midnight."

The school district said that the student will face "serious and appropriate administrative consequences" from the school, in addition to any action that might be taken through the courts.

Roberts said she thought the student was still in police custody as of Tuesday afternoon.

"We want to be fully honest and transparent with our families, students, staff and school community, and we want you to know that you will receive important and factual information from us directly," the school district said in Tuesday's e-mail.

"Please know that our goal is to get you the most accurate verified information as quickly as we can, but sometimes rumors outpace the facts. We take any and all rumors seriously, and we want to encourage students and families to let us know about any concerns they hear."

In another school-security incident, Danville police have charged Bennett R. Williams, 55, with felony terroristic threatening for threats allegedly made involving Danville Christian Academy, the police department said in a news release.

Williams, of Danville, was being held in the Boyle County Detention Center after Monday's arrest. Williams was not on school property when the threats were made, and students were not in danger, police said.

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