'Cannot make sense of it': Wake County families on edge after series of school lockdowns

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Saturday, February 4, 2023
Wake County families on edge after series of school lockdowns
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Another school day was cut short in Wake County after school threats prompted two lockdowns in Zebulon and Raleigh on Friday.

ZEBULON, N.C. (WTVD) -- Another school day was cut short in Wake County after school threats prompted two lockdowns in Zebulon and Raleigh on Friday.

It's the second time this week Zebulon Middle School parents were alerted by their kids' texts asking them to pick them up.

"I personally cannot make sense of it," Brandon Cole said. "To see the number of codes that have occurred in the past, I don't know what's going on."

Zebulon Middle went into a Code Yellow on Tuesday after an online threat was posted referring to the school. Another social media threat prompted a Code Red lockdown on Friday.

"The search today was time-consuming," Zebulon Police Chief Jacqui Boykin said. "We had to go classroom by classroom and search the school to make sure there were no weapons on campus."

Police said there was no evidence of a shooter or gun and there were no injuries. But as the Wake County Sheriff's Office investigates, Boykin expressed irritation with fake threats.

"If this turns out to be a false threat, then all these people were here and taken away from folks who had genuine emergencies and needed police and needed EMS," Boykin said. "We have got to get to a point where people are held accountable for their actions, and even young folks need to understand how serious this kind of thing is."

In Raleigh, a slew of cars waited to get into East Millbrook Magnet Middle School where a Code Red lockdown was in place following Zebulon Middle "due to the rumor of a threat."

East Millbrook said it will operate on an altered schedule, but parents like Will Manuel couldn't wait to pick his daughter up.

"Totally had me alarmed because one of my coworker's children go to Rolesville High School, and the other day, they had a student with a gun," Manuel said. "It's really scary as a parent to just know that your child can be at harm in school."

As stressful as this was for parents, Dr. Laklieshia Izzard of Shekinah Counseling said lockdowns can bring up thoughts related to mass shootings or other trauma for students, which can sometimes turn into threats online.

"It's associated with more stress for the students, more anxiety, more depression, more loneliness, more fear, and even possibly isolation," Izzard said. "There are multiple factors that can contribute to why a student would take to social media to say certain things, but definitely could be connected to what they're experiencing mentally because of the trauma that they've been exposed to."

In the string of lockdowns this week in Wake County, no students were hurt but one student is facing disciplinary action after they were found with a loaded gun at Rolesville High School on Wednesday.

East Millbrook Magnet Middle School said officials determined there was no credible threat to the school and the Code Reds were lifted at both East Millbrook and Zebulon Middle on Friday.

"The moment she walked out ... I think I cried again, but it was happy tears this time," Deanna Faison Hinton said. "We definitely have to watch our kids, their social media accounts, what they're posting. Some people may think it's a joke, it's not a joke."

Wake County School Board Chair Lindsay Mahaffey said they have ongoing safety and security meetings and are discussing safety and security at their next work session on Tuesday.

"As a parent, I know it's a new reality of having those discussions with my own children," she said.

Mahaffrey said the board is focused on keeping their schools a safe place to learn.

"We also have to be responsive to our families and parents and making sure we are reassuring them that we're doing what we can as a school district, but this is a community wide effort to make," she said.

According to Mahaffrey, the school board just did an assessment on all of their buildings to see where they are strong and where they need to improve. When Eyewitness News asked about increasing punishments, they referred us to code of conduct but otherwise up to law enforcement.

"You have that conversation and you hope that nothing ever happens. I struggle with that conversation. I'm sure all parents struggle with that conversation and I don't have the answers on how to have that with your child," she said.