COLUMBIA, S.C. — Local, state, and federal law enforcement are investigating after they say a social media challenge led to threats and disruptions at schools across South Carolina Wednesday.
Investigators say the threats were false, but led some schools to go into lockdown and active their active shooter protocols.
So, how do these and similar threats impact educators? News19 sat down with teachers to learn more from their perspective.
Jan Hammond, a Lexington School District Two teacher and the Board Chair of Lexington-Richland School District Five, says they're constantly preparing for what could happen.
"It makes you feel like sometimes there’s a certain part of young people that think that it’s funny, who really don’t realize that it could happen to them," Hammond said. "The only good out of it today… we knew what to do.”
Around the Midlands, videos circulating on social media showed students with their hands on the back of their heads walking out of the building while getting instructions from officers. Other students sat huddled in classrooms.
"We have to come together as a community," Jermaine Singletary, a Lexington-Richland Five teacher, said. "I was just astonished by this even happening and you’re looking at it could be in our own backyard.”
Mike Burgess, a Lexington School District One teacher, said he feels more should be done to ensure all South Carolina schools have the resources needed to protect themselves.
"Certainly, I felt confidence that we are ready, but concern knowing that there’s still districts in this state that do not have a school resource officer (SRO) in their schools," Burgess said, "...that don’t have mental health professionals. A greater attention or focus needs to be made by the state of South Carolina there."
"There’s signs of children that need help," Hammond said, "and if we could start zeroing in on that… we’re stopping it before it gets to the point of locking down a school."
While Wednesday's calls were a hoax, Singletary and Burgess spoke about the impact of hearing about school shootings elsewhere in the country, including Uvalde, Texas where 19 children and two teachers died.
"When you hear it, it’s sad," Singletary said. "I’m afraid that we’re going to become so numb that we’re not going to be able to react the way that we should react when situations like this happen and that’s part of what scares me and just seeing the concern amongst teachers because you never know who’s coming into your schools…. No where is safe and, you know, you’re looking at the kids that we’re trying to raise and we’re trying to educate and you just wonder where is it going wrong.”
“My wife and I are blessed with four children. One of our children, one of our kids, was the age of the young people at Sandy Hook when it took place," burgess said. "So, certainly you can put yourself in that position. What if that was my child? One of our children, when Uvalde happened, was the age of those students. So, it does make an impact. It does make you think. It does make you maybe hug them a little bit tighter and tell them you love them before they get out of the car. In terms of what teachers should be discussing, they should be asking questions. Is our school staffed with a full time SRO? Is our school sharing an SRO with one, two, three other schools?"
“We have to work as a community to try to bring some type of programs or something into the schools," Singletary said.
“I think kids have got to learn there are consequences to bad behavior," Hammond added.