Laurens Co. schools, local college receive threats - FOX Carolina 21

Laurens Co. schools, local college receive threats

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Clinton Public Safety officers were present at Clinton High School Friday morning. (Mar. 8, 2013/FOX Carolina) Clinton Public Safety officers were present at Clinton High School Friday morning. (Mar. 8, 2013/FOX Carolina)
Eastside Elementary School was one of the facilities where security was increased after a threatening letter. (March 7, 2013/FOX Carolina) Eastside Elementary School was one of the facilities where security was increased after a threatening letter. (March 7, 2013/FOX Carolina)
CLINTON, SC (FOX Carolina) -

A threatening letter prompted officials to increase security at Laurens County schools and a local college on Friday, according to officials.

Schools in both Laurens County school districts along with Presbyterian College received threats on Thursday and Friday. Officials with the school districts, Laurens County Sheriff's Office, Laurens police, Clinton Public Safety, State law Enforcement Division, the Highway Patrol and more are actively working together to investigate the threats.

Laurens County Sheriff Ricky Chastain has seen both letters threatening Laurens County School District 55 and District 56 and said there were "a number of similarities" between the letters. He said both letters were postmarked the same day.

Laurens County School District 56 Superintendent David O'Shields said the letter arrived in the mail Thursday morning and was opened by his administrative assistant. He said the assistant immediately informed him of the letter and he then informed law enforcement. He would not comment on the nature of the threat conveyed in the correspondence.

Laurens County School District 55 Superintendent Dr. Billy R. Strickland said they also received a threat Thursday evening. He said law enforcement presence would be increased at every school in the district and schools would operate under normal hours on Friday.

Catherine Ryan, spokesperson for Presbyterian College, said they were notified of a threat sent to the school on Friday, which is currently on spring break.

"All Presbyterian College classes and campus activities are continuing as planned, but faculty, staff and students have been encouraged to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities," Ryan said.

Chastain said he has not had a chance to see the letter sent to Presbyterian yet.

Clinton Public Safety Chief Robin Morse said because of the threat, officers were posted outside every school in the Clinton area - Clinton Elementary School, Eastside Elementary School, Bailey Elementary School, Bell Street Middle School and Clinton High School - to ensure students were safely dismissed on Thursday and for classes on Friday.

Laura Koskela, assistant superintendent for District 56, said schools were placed on a level one lockdown Thursday morning, which means all exterior doors were locked and students were not allowed outside. She said parents were told about the lockdown via phone at 1:30 p.m.

"Because the safety of our schools is our highest priority, all possible security threats are taken seriously and investigated," city leaders said in a written statement sent to FOX Carolina.

Morse said his officers are working with state agents and the school district to determine who wrote the letter. He said the increased security, which includes nearly 30 officers on patrol, will remain in place until the investigation is complete.

Friday morning, FOX Carolina crews reported seeing local law enforcement on patrol at Clinton High School.

O'Shields said it is possible that parents may notice a change to the day-to-day procedures of students.

Officials said parents who are concerned about the situation can call the District 56 at 864-833-0800.

People with information about the threat are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 864-68-CRIME. Investigators have established a hotline at 864-200-4565 to gather tips related to the case.

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