Just a month into the school year and there have been at least 16 threats at Southwest Florida schools.
The latest two came this week in Lee County.
A student found a message written on the girl’s bathroom at Riverdale High School that threatened a school shooting on Thursday.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office tells Fox 4 Investigates there was an increased presence at the school.
Deputies believe the threat is unwarranted, but they still took no chances.
Also in Lee County, a 12-year-old girl was arrested after threatening to shoot up Diplomat Middle School in Cape Coral.
The child sent a message on Snap Chat with an image of a machine gun-style weapon.
Police found the 12-year-old at her home, where she admitted to posting the photo.
She said that the gun on her post was a fake “blaster” gun that was broken.
The girl told police that the threat was also a joke.
A gray and orange SplatRball gun was found and taken in as evidence.
“That’s why we have a very strict zero-tolerance policy for these threats,” said Officer Brandon Sancho with the Cape Coral Police Department.
“We need parents to sit down with their children and explain to them these might be fake threats but there could be real consequences.”
The school threats came in rapid order in just a few days.
On Friday, LCSO responded in full force to reports of an active shooter at South Fort Myers High School.
That report was a hoax, likely part of a nationwide “swatting” incident where dozens of fake reports of active shooters were made across the country.
“This prank stuff that they do, these students, has to stop,” said Ed, a grandparent outside of South Fort Myers High.
Lee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Christopher Bernier has sent several messages to parents and students in recent weeks.
He urged parents to make it clear to their kids that a threat, real or fake, could severely harm their future.
“I think that we have normalized the idea of school shootings as just a thing that happens and a thing that we do,” said Dr. Amy Klinger, a nationally recognized expert in school safety and the co-founder of the Educator’s School Safety Network.
Klinger says it’s possible some of the threats are coming from copycats, people seeking attention.
She says as a society, we have to take these threats seriously.
“Every school out there should anticipate that they will at some point confront a threat,” Klinger said.
“So now is the time we should be planning and training people what to do.”