Education

Students stay home after threat at Apex Friendship High. Friday they’ll need parents’ OK.

This story was updated at 4:55 p.m. Oct. 17.

Some Apex Friendship High School students stayed home Thursday while others attended under heightened security after a threat of violence was made against the school.

A threat found on a restroom wall Wednesday warned students not to come to school “next Friday,” principal Matt Wight, adding that the threat is believed to be a hoax.

In a message Wednesday night, Wight told parents that Thursday and Friday would continue to be regular school days, but students who stay home on those days would receive “excused absences.”

Initially, students didn’t need a parent’s note if they were going to be out either day. But by Thursday afternoon Wight said a note would be required Friday for an absence to be excused.

“While this practice was suspended today, after careful review of board policy, written notes are required,” Wight said. “It is important to note that excused absences are required by Board of Education policy (Policy 6860) if your child misses class Friday and expects to participate in athletics or other extra-curricular activities after school.

“The principal must excuse the absence and approve the extra-curricular participation.”

Wight had initially told families that students who are absent, even without a note from their parents, could participate Thursday in after-school activities, including athletics.

School officials said that Thursday’s attendance figures won’t be available until Friday but that potentially half of the school’s 2,740 students were absent in the morning.

In the meantime, Wight said Wake County school security and the Apex Police Department are continuing to investigate the threat and that “we will have additional security presence on campus until the situation is resolved.”

“As stated yesterday, we will continue to work with WCPSS Security and the Apex Police Department to exhaust all leads related to what increasingly appears to be a hoax threat written on the wall of a girls’ bathroom yesterday,” Wight said. “While rare for our school, such notes are among the simplest way to threaten others without regard for the disruption it creates.”

Wight sent multiple updates to families Thursday, including one during the morning that a second threatening message appeared on social media. But he said it has been confirmed that the threat concerned another Wake County high school and not Apex Friendship. He did not name the other school.

The Apex Friendship threat comes after Northern High School in Durham was put on lockdown Tuesday following a report of a man entering the school with a gun. It was a Junior ROTC student carrying a plastic replica for a drill.

Threats have soared since the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February 2018.

At an August 2018 news conference, the FBI, Wake County law enforcement agencies and school officials warned that people who make hoax threats against schools will be arrested and prosecuted.

Amid the continuing school safety fears, the Wake County school system hired a group to conduct security audits of all of the district’s schools.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.
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