NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Almost a third of New Hanover High School’s students checked out early Tuesday following an increased police presence on the school grounds.
Parents removed 400 students, according to New Hanover County Schools spokesperson Russell Clark. New Hanover High’s population is 1,500.
The exodus was in response to a social media post that drew the attention of local officials. Increased law enforcement was present at the school following the “warning of gun violence,” according to a notice written by NHHS principal Philip Sutton.
Sutton posted to NHHS’s Facebook page the post also encouraged “parents to pick up their children early.” NHC schools’ Facebook page shows a repost of Sutton’s message 20 minutes later.
Clark said parents were notified of an increased law enforcement presence through various channels.
New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jerry Brewer blamed the high number of checkouts on Sutton’s post.
“The situation would not have been such a big deal if the principal hadn’t made that post,” Brewer said.
Sutton wrote law enforcement found the social media warnings were not credible, which Brewer confirmed with Port City Daily. However, Brewer said he did not know what posts were examined exactly and could not specify from where the warnings originated.
“I have not spoken with investigators about it,” he said, “but I could not tell you if I had. For example, if a gas station was robbed, we couldn’t tell you how much money was stolen.”
Parents pointed toward a Facebook post that stated: “Hanover parents check on ya kids they threatening to shoot the school up now.”
Brewer said he could not share how many units were dispatched to New Hanover High.
“There wasn’t that big of a difference in the amount of law enforcement that is normally there,” he said.
New Hanover High already has two school resource officers from the sheriff’s office in school buildings, but Brewer noted members from the emergency response team — ”or SWAT team” — patrol the surrounding area on a regular basis. One WPD officer is also stationed on campus.
Brewer added a detective was one of the only deputies that is not normally on duty there. The decision to add additional law enforcement was out of an abundance of caution.
The supposed threat comes days after three separate shootings involving minors took place last week. The first occurred Friday at the 200 block of S. 13. and Ann streets and left one female juvenile with non-threatening injuries.
The other two took place over the weekend, both lethal. One left a 17-year-old dead, and the other ended the life of 18-year-old Jailin Tilghman-Deablo, the brother of Chance Deablo — a former New Hanover High student responsible for last year’s shooting that took place during the first few weeks of school. WPD stated over the weekend the two shootings are not connected.
All three cases are still under investigation.
Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at firstname.lastname@example.org