State police report alleged threat: Local schools, police beef up security this week

Thursday, August 29, 2019

By Samantha Jones and Scott Loftis

Carroll County school and law enforcement officials said Monday that they are aware of a reported threat of a school shooting in Arkansas later this week.

The Arkansas State Police issued a statement via Facebook on Sunday addressing the reports.

“The Arkansas State Police has been in close contact in recent days with the Federal Bureau of Investigation attempting to identify the source of an alleged threat of gun violence at an undisclosed Arkansas school reportedly planned for later this week,” the post on the ASP Facebook page says.

“At this time no corroborating evidence or useful details have been uncovered in regard to the information provided to the FBI.

“In the event more specific or credible information is received; it will be shared with local law enforcement offices, state and local school officials, as well as Arkansas citizens.

“The Arkansas State Police asks that if anyone has information about a threat of violence whether the site of the threat may be a school or other public place, please contact your nearest Arkansas State Police Office or local law enforcement agency.”

Berryville School District Superintendent Owen Powell said the district has been transparent about the threat with the community. On Monday, the district released a statement saying the Little Rock FBI office issued a general awareness statement regarding an unsubstantiated rumor that a school shooting would occur in Arkansas on Aug. 29.

The threat is not specific to Berryville or any school in Arkansas, the statement says, and the Berryville School District will keep working closely with the Berryville Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to take appropriate safety measures.

"The safety of our students and faculty are our top priority at Berryville schools," Powell said. "We're going to take all threats seriously. Berryville schools were not named in the threat, but we're taking every precaution and trying to be prepared to be safe."

There will be more police on campus on Thursday, Powell said, and teachers have been talking to students about what to do in case a shooting happens.

"Twenty years ago or even 10 years ago, you didn't really talk about this," Powell said. "Now, we sit down with our students and we talk about it to prepare them for that kind of situation."

The district just started doing active shooter drills this year, Powell said.

"You've got to talk about it," he said. "You can't act like it won't happen. You've just got to prepare for it."

Powell added, "We want the community –– our parents, our staff, our faculty, our students –– to know we are aware of the threat and we're taking it seriously. It's our top priority to keep our students and our faculty safe."

In announcement shared on Facebook, Green Forest superintendent Matt Summers said the district has been notified of an unsubstantiated threat of a possible school shooting on Aug. 29. The district is working closely with the Green Forest Police Department, the statement says, to ensure the safety of its students and staff.

There are four school resource officers on duty, the statement says, along with additional officers from the police department. The statement says the district will share any additional information if and when it is made known.

Eureka Springs superintendent Bryan Pruitt said the school district was notified last week about the threat and began taking precautions immediately. Pruitt said he spoke with Eureka Springs Police Chief Brian Young, saying the police department has been providing extra patrol around the school since hearing about the threat.

"What they told us originally was they've got this threat online out of the country, so they couldn't trace it back," Pruitt said. "They really didn't know if it was a legitimate threat, but any threat's a threat."

Pruitt said the school district takes all threats seriously.

"I hope the kids know they're safe and we're going to keep them safe," Pruitt said. "We have everybody on high alert. We're always looking and seeing if anything looks strange or out of place."

Pruitt said the district has been talking to the students about how to handle a possible school shooting scenario.

"We're very cautious and taking all precautions we can," Pruitt said. "At the same time, we don't want to traumatize our kids or make them paranoid."

Pruitt thanked the police department, saying he's grateful for all the support police officers give the district.

"They are top-notch about taking care of us up here," Pruitt said. "They're always just minutes or seconds away. They come up here a lot and do checks with us periodically to help protect their most valuable asset –– that's our kids."

Berryville Police Chief Robert Bartos said he was told that the threat was based on second- or third-hand information.

“There was nothing direct toward anything,” he said. “We take everything seriously, but there’s no evidence that it’s a credible threat.”

Green Forest Police Chief John Bailey said his department is also taking the threat seriously.

“We are aware of it,” Bailey said. “We’ll have some extra patrols around the school and we’ve beefed up our security in the schools.”

Young said his department has made school safety a priority.

“It’s our duty and we want to make sure our children are protected no matter if it’s a real threat or a hoax,” he said.

Young pointed out that the Eureka Springs police patrol around the school seven days a week, even when classes are not in session. In addition to a school resource officer, other officers also make their presence known on campus, he said.

“While school is in session, it’s part of our officers’ regular duty to walk through that school,” Young said.

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