EMPIRE, Okla. (TNN) - What appeared to be a threat to Empire Public Schools Wednesday night turned out to not be a viable threat, but school and FBI officials are still taking it seriously.
This latest incident marks the third threat-related incident at a southwest Oklahoma school since the school year began.
Around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Empire Public Schools received word of a potential threat to the school. They immediately called the Stephens County Sheriff’s Department, who ultimately found the threat was not viable. This follows threats in the last few weeks in both Lawton and Duncan. A spokeswoman for the FBI said there has been an increase in threats this year, but they’re working to make sure that those threats don’t lead to violence.
On Wednesday night Empire Public School officials received word that a student had made comments about school shootings to other students.
"It was just some comments made to some other students. It had nothing specific about our school, there were no hit lists or people they were targeting or anything like that. It was just a general comment about school shootings, but it was enough that we wanted to investigate it and ensure there wasn’t something being planned or something like that. There was nothing to that at all,” said Empire Public Schools Superintendent Justin Smith.
The all clear was given to the administration around 2 a.m. Thursday after the Stephens County Sheriff’s Department spoke with the student who made the comments, as well as those who he made the comment to.
"They didn’t feel there was a viable threat and they would allow us to deal with the discipline of the student. They had no grounds to do anything with the student, there were no weapons or anything like that that they could find in the home, or firearms, anything like that. They felt it was just a case of a student bragging about something or making up an idle threat,” Smith said.
This is the third alleged school threat in southwest Oklahoma since the start of the school year.
"It is an increasing issue that the FBI is seeing. We are working collaboratively with our local and state partners to address every threat that comes in to determine the credibility and take the action necessary to mitigate those potential risks,” said Andrea Anderson, Public Affairs Specialist for the FBI Oklahoma City Division.
Regardless of whether a threat appears to be real or not, the FBI puts all of its resources into investigating every single threat.
“For us in the FBI, we determine no threat to be a hoax. Every threat is taken seriously, so for those who choose to engage in that conduct, understand that we don’t disseminate between a hoax threat and a real threat, we treat every threat as if it is real,” Anderson said.
Anderson asks that anyone who hears or sees anything involving a possible threat to please contact the FBI. The earlier they know about it, the more they can do to stop it.
As for the incident in Empire, Superintendent Smith said they notified parents Thursday morning. He said he wishes he could have let them know sooner, but because they didn’t receive any information until early Thursday morning they couldn’t. To help students feel safe, they had an extra presence from the sheriff’s department on campus Thursday.
Smith said he expects the student who made the comment to receive the maximum punishment possible according to school policy.