A 12-year-old girl and student of Killeen Independent School District was arrested early Wednesday morning, accused of making terroristic threats against several schools.
An investigation by KISD police, Killeen police, the FBI and Fort Hood authorities determined the Roy J. Smith Middle School student made a series of threats in social media postings this week.
Social media providers helped police locate the suspect, according to Killeen Police Department officials, and the girl was arrested at the home of her parents in southwest Killeen after a search warrant was executed. She is being held at Bell County Juvenile Detention Center.
KISD picked up on a variety of rumors and anonymous threats after the Florida school shooting, which was Feb. 14, according to chief communication officer Terry Abbott. He said the student acted individually, and “students were never determined to be in direct danger.”
The threats created widespread fear among students and parents, Abbott said. The social media posts were shared widely by parents and students, and disrupted the learning environment at schools, he said.
Several students stayed home from school Wednesday. Abbott said he didn’t know how many absences were related to the threats.
In KISD, 39,437 kids attended class Wednesday, and 4,662 absent for an attendance rate of 89.43 percent. Monday, there were 41,270 students in attendance and 2,787 students absent for an attendance rate of 93.67 percent.
Principals have sent out messages to parents with children in Roy J. Smith Middle School, Audie Murphy Middle School, Liberty Hill Middle School and Patterson Middle School about the social media posts in recent days, Abbott said.
Fort Hood officials referred all questions related to schools to KISD. Questions related to the criminal investigation were referred to Killeen police.
The Herald asked KPD questions pertaining to the case, such as: Were any weapons found in relation to the case? Has the suspect given a motive or reason for the threats? Is the student believed to be responsible for any of the other recent threats made to KISD schools?
In response, spokeswoman Ofelia Miramontez said, “All the information on this case has been released in today’s press release.”
KISD would not disclose the girl’s disciplinary record. It is unknown whether the girl was bullied by fellow students.
Karen Griffin, the parent of a student who attends Roy J. Smith Middle School, feels conflicted toward KISD’s response to the threats.
Griffin first heard concerns from her daughter Wednesday, who said she heard classmates gossiping about the possibility of the school “being shot up.” Her daughter was concerned about an apparent lack of police presence.
Griffin, whose children have attended KISD schools for years now, hopes to see more administrative action to address such threats.
“I have mixed emotions,” she said. “Part of me thinks they’re handling it as appropriately as they can, but the other part feels like we could definitely be limiting these (threats) by doing certain things and educating.”
Griffin said she and fellow parents hope KISD holds assemblies to discuss these threats, That would allow students like her daughter to voice their concerns and open dialogue to improve school safety.
“What we say to our kids sometimes falls on deaf ears, and unless they hear it from somebody else, it’s not true,” Griffin said. “This is a very serious matter.”
The district has handled similar cases of terroristic cases in the past.
In 2015, two unverified threats were made in one week, warned of a shooting at an Ellison High School pep rally on a Friday.
The school’s principal sent a letter to parents that Friday morning, assuring them the school and district were taking “precautionary measures” and that the pep rally would go on as scheduled. Still, nearly 500 students were absent that Friday.
After an initial statement in which KISD officials said that the district’s police were working with local law enforcement to investigate that threat, nothing further was said.