A collaborative effort by law enforcement and local school personnel allowed for quick action in ending an online threat against Blackford County Schools and students. On March 4, a juvenile was taken into custody and detained at the juvenile detention center in Grant County in connection with an online threat towards the Blackford Junior High School in Blackford County.
Late Sunday evening a swirl of posts began circulating on social media about a threat towards the Blackford County School. Reports suggest that someone created an Instagram account, a popular photo and video-sharing social networking service, displaying a stock photo of a weapon along with a non-specific threat towards the BJHS.
Authorities in Blackford County after receiving the first notification on the threat went into immediate action. The Blackford County Sheriff’s Department, Hartford City Police Department and the FBI were able to jointly investigate the threat swiftly and thoroughly. During the incident both the Blackford County Sheriff and the Blackford County School Corporation kept their Facebook pages current by supplying information regarding the situation to concerned students, parents and citizens of the community.
During the early hours of Monday, March 4, Blackford County Schools posted on their Facebook page the following comment, “The individual responsible for the issue last night is now in custody and there is no threat this morning.” They also informed the community via social media and a recorded message to school parents and guardians of Monday’s school attendance protocol. With the assistance of local law authorities, the schools used portable metal detectors, recently purchased by the school corporation to take extra precautions.
During the January Blackford County School Board meeting the board approved to take further action in the process of improving student safety with a number of security measures.
The board approved the second reading of Policy 5611: The Use of Metal Detectors. This policy allows for the use of metal detectors in events of reasonable suspicion, as well as in random searches to serve as a deterrent to bringing weapons on school property. The board developed the policy utilizing language provided by the Indiana School Board Association, and they refined the policy by working with local law enforcement.
Following the policy approval, the board agreed to the purchase of two portable walk-through metal detection systems. These systems provide a simple way to increase the number of students screened in a random search. During the meeting they stressed that the searches will always be in the presence of law enforcement officers. The School Board is having continued discussion on increased use in random screenings for metal detector wands as well.
Also approved by the board was the installation of a security film on the entrances of the Blackford High School. The film will create an additional layer of security that holds glass in place, making it more difficult to penetrate if the glass is pierced.
In the summer of 2018, all administrators in the district received training in threat protocols by the Sandy Hook Foundation. They used the information to update school safety plans and procedures within the buildings. The district received a $50,000 annual matching grant from the Department of Homeland Security to offset the salary of their School Resource Officer and to maintain/upgrade cameras, buzzers, and other security equipment. The IDOE audited all BCS building safety plans, with all plans receiving a positive review.
Over the past year the school corporation has either improved or implemented a number of safety measures. They have also made significant upgrades over the summer to the school security cameras, software and hardware. In further cooperative efforts with local law enforcement, the School Corporation has also granted access to school cameras at the Blackford County Dispatch for emergency situations. Other measures taken are the installation of playground fencing at the Northside Elementary and the removal of shrubbery and trees that obstructed views. Door-buzzer upgrades and the installation of cameras were completed at the Montpelier Elementary. A perforated, school themed vinyl film to the main entrances have been applied at BHS to obscure outside visibility while promoting school pride.
Also, three administrators completed the School Safety Specialist Academy, which provides ongoing, certified training and information on national and state best practices, as well as exemplary resources for school safety, security, intervention/prevention, and emergency preparedness planning. School safety specialists are trained to lead the development and implementation of school safety practices which will provide safe educational environments for all students in Indiana.
The Blackford County School Corporation thanks the local law enforcement for their “quick resolution of this issue.”