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Central Texas school districts respond to seven threats in seven days

Parents and students are getting more anxious after reports of threats disrupt classes. District police departments say each threat is investigated for credibility.

AUSTIN, Texas — Unfortunately, threats to student and staff safety in schools are becoming more common. Since last week, five central Texas school districts investigated threats or rumors of threats.

Parents like Robert Brooks are getting more anxious.

"I already tell him, 'You know, I love you, have a good day at school,' but now it's like, I don't want to let him get out of the car because I don't know what's going to happen at the school that day," Brooks said.

His son started the school year as a freshman at James Bowie High School within Austin ISD. This week, the district sent what Brooks calls a "vague message" to parents.

"OK? That could be a picture of a lot of different things," Brooks said. 

He went to pull his son out of school early Tuesday because of the threat and message. While he was there, he was gathered with other parents who had only heard rumors about the image from their own students. One parent mentioned to Brooks it was an active shooter threat.

Austin ISD declared an "all clear" later Tuesday.

RELATED: Leander PD launches investigation after rumor causes disruptions at multiple schools

"Ten to 15 minutes time is a very long time in a situation of an active shooter threat. There were parents that came after me and I had already been waiting for my son for 20-30 minutes before he finally came out of the school," Brooks said. "That's a long time. It could have already have all taken place before I even got here. Of course, you know, there wouldn't have been anything I could do, but you know, the way I saw these kids coming out to meet their parents, these kids were not looking very happy. They were terrified."

Brooks and his son decided it was best to skip school again Wednesday. That night, Brooks asked his son if he felt safe going back to school Thursday.

"'On a scale of 1 to 10, how comfortable and safe do you feel going back?' And he said, 'A five. That's a 50/50 dad. Like, I don't really know if it's safe or not to go back,'" Brooks said.

Ultimately, Brooks' son returned to school Thursday.

RELATED: La Grange middle schooler charged for allegedly making threats on TikTok

Round Rock ISD's Stony Point High School also responded to a rumor of a threat within the past week. The district's police chief said every threat is investigated for credibility, no matter where it comes from.

"We want to make sure that if something's concerning to a student, if something's concerning to a parent, it's concerning to us if we didn't know about it," Chief Jeffrey Yarbrough said. "Once we know about it, our goal is to make sure that we can learn exactly what the entire context is and look at that, that phrase or that statement or that picture or that comment. And you measure that against the what we call a threat assessment matrix."

Yarbrough said everyone's anxiety is heightened these days, especially after the most recent fatal school shooting in Michigan.

"One of the concerns that we have, though, on pushing information out too rapidly is pushing out misinformation that may increase the anxiety that parents have or the community has or students might have or staff," Yarbrough said.

The district's chief gave an example if information is sent to parents prematurely, parents and guardians may come to school grounds to pick up students which takes officers away from keeping the students and staff inside the school safe.

RELATED: Lake Travis ISD increases police presence at two schools following anonymous threats

"When we push out information, we want to make sure we're pushing out the most accurate information in the in the most timely manner. And sometimes that can be quick. It depends on the situation, but sometimes it may be delayed a little bit until we can get a good grasp on what we're pushing out," Yarbrough said.

Parents like Brooks say their anxiety is already high and every threat, credible or not, should be dealt with the same way.

"We shouldn't think it's just kids playing games because it's all social media, if I couldn't say it more clearly than that," Brooks said. "The kids are going to play games on social media, but those games are illegal. Those kids should still be punished for just making false threats. And even if it is a false threat, it's still a threat."

"We're living in a time where there's a lot of anxiety, there's a lot of frustration, there's a lot of concern," Yarbrough said. "When you get some misinformation or you get some information that may leak out to certain groups or certain communities or certain staff members, and that information is not accurate, it creates problems that we are going into to address and to look into to determine the credibility."


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