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'I saw the tears in their faces:' Richland Two superintendent responds to scare at Blythewood High

Davis said he was was just as horrified by what happened as parents and student

BLYTHEWOOD, S.C. — Students and staff at Blythewood High School dealt with a situation no school should ever have to--a threat of a school shooting that forced them to abruptly stop class and evacuate to safety. 

The threat, thankfully, wasn't real. Instead, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said he believes it originated as social media challenge on TikTok that called for threats to be made at schools. Over a dozen districts across South Carolina experienced the same type of fake threat at nearly the same time as Blythewood High.

 RELATED: Day of school threats, hoaxes plagues South Carolina schools

Local, state, and federal law enforcement continue to investigate but no arrests have been made yet. 

RELATED: Sheriff: Social media hoax led to scare at Blythewood High, sheriff says

As part of a special broadcast called "Tough Conversation" on our Friends at 5 broadcast, News19 brought in students and a counselor to talk about how young people can process going through a difficult experience such as the one Blythewood High dealt with. News19's Darci Strickland and Andrea Mock also spoke with Richland Two Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis, who said he was just as horrified by what happened as parents and students. Here's a transcript below of that conversation.

Dr. Baron Davis: 

"I had a number of emotions that I experienced while this  incident was taking place. I was definitely thankful and I thank God that no one was injured seriously or physically injured. But there are emotional injuries. Although this was a hoax the emotions are real as a result of it.

"I'm thankful that all of my my students who attended school and all my staff and my faculty and individuals at that in that community who attended our schools today can attend in the future.

"I was grateful to the response from our sheriff's department and the way our students responded and all the law enforcement. Our students, our parents, our teachers all did a phenomenal job in responding appropriately. 

"But then I was a little saddened that this is taking place in our schools and across the state and across the country that we don't take the education and providing premier educational experiences for our students seriously enough to protect the sanctity of the institution of education anymore, and that schools are now targets for people who want to disrupt that process."

Darci Strickland: What do you say to parents tonight who are concerned and don't know how to have that tough conversation with their kids about going back to school?

Dr. Davis: "I saw it firsthand students coming out of the building with their hands high or on their head faculty and staff coming out some who are stopping to assist students who could not run out on their own. Some students had to be pushed in wheelchairs, some students were on crutches and had to be assisted. I saw the anger, the frustration the anxiety in their faces, the tears. I saw it firsthand. 

I would say to those families maybe just spend some time just hugging and loving on your children tonight and assuring them and being that we have the processes and we have the resources in place but encouraging them to to not give up on the the institution of education that it is still a very safe place to be but maybe just listen to them. Maybe that's a conversation for another day. Maybe the conversation is just listening to how they feel really digging deep and making sure that they that they are going to be okay and if they're not to let someone who can assist them professionally assist them. 

[Editor's Note: A short time after this interview the district announced Blythewood High would be on e-learning Thursday.]

Darci Strickland: Are your educators okay? 

Dr. Davis: "I think my educators are struggling with this as well. I saw teachers and I've spoke to a few as they were exiting the building and after we had did an all clear and I think it can have an emotional toll on them as well because remember when they were experiencing this they thought it was real. They thought it was live so those feelings are live. I mean they are real. The feelings aren't a hoax and so they definitely had an emotional response to that and we're going to work with them as well.

RELATED: Here's what Blythewood High is doing following the hoax made against the school

"I think one of the things that we're going to do we'll be getting some information out here in the next hour or so to our faculty and staff and to our students and our parents about how we're going to move forward how we're going to help our adults process first, because we really need to assess them and help them process so they can help our students process. So you can't have both our adults and our students, our scholars, both trying to process simultaneous so we're going to try to help them put them in a position to be able to help our students when our students return to school."

Andrea Mock: What advice do you give parents and students who are watching about social media and the dangers of social media and how that should be taken seriously and monitored?

Dr. Davis: "I would say to our parents to definitely be aware of the social media accounts that your sons and daughters are utilizing. You should follow them on their accounts and and often check to see if they have burner accounts of fake accounts as well. And become knowledgeable about how to use and navigate social media yourself so if they're using things like TikTok or if they're using Snapchat or they're using Instagram you want to be able to learn how to navigate those things as well. Spot check and monitor their social media accounts. Ask to see their phones.  I would if you pay the bill you have access to and a right to the phone and the right to inspect the phone anytime you should choose to do so.

"And for our students I I think that our students you need to understand that if you misuse something like this is the severity of your actions could be life-altering for you as well as life-altering for others. So the individuals who were part of this hoax that caused all of this chaos, if they're found and when they're found I think this is going to be a life-altering issue for them as well as their families. So this is not the time to to joke around and play around when it comes to people's safety and their security and threatening that safety and security they expect when they come to schools and any other public place."

Darci Strickland: Are Richland Two schools safe?

Dr. Davis: "Richland Two schools are very safe. We have an outstanding group of administrators. We have an outstanding group of committed teachers.

I saw how our teachers reacted firsthand today that they put themselves and their students safety first and foremost and that was just beautiful to see them do that so I know they are committed to ensuring that our students attend safe and secure schools. We have an outstanding security force: our own in-house security force and we have a school resource officer at every school in our school district. And in our high schools we have two school resource offices at every high school and then we already are in the process of adding additional support for resource officers in our schools as well.

That's something that we have to continue to reevaluate and strengthen on an ongoing basis but I feel comfortable sending my daughter to school each and every day as well as my wife who who is an employee in the school district and works at Blythewood High School.

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