Girl, 14, arrested on suspicion of threatening one or more Watson Chapel students

Girl, 14, arrested on suspicion of threatening one or more Watson Chapel students

A 14-year-old Watson Chapel Junior High School girl was arrested Monday morning on suspicion of terroristic threatening after an investigation into a threat of shooting one or more classmates, a Jefferson County sheriff’s official said.

Maj. Gary McClain told The Commercial the girl’s family was notified about the threat and the girl turned herself in to authorities. Watson Chapel School District Superintendent Andrew Curry said the student was not on campus Monday and has been suspended with the possibility of expulsion.

McClain said in a news release the threat was made over the weekend through a video posted to social media and directed toward the unnamed student or students. McClain added that the video showed the suspect brandishing a firearm, but she was not on school grounds when the incident occurred.

The arrest happened five days after a 15-year-old Watson Chapel Junior High student allegedly posted on social media about bringing a gun to campus after school that day. The student was arrested Friday morning in the area of the U.S. 65-Arkansas 81 on route to school, although Curry said he was suspended from school Thursday.

The school principal has recommended the boy be expelled from school, Curry said Monday.

McClain said the threat leading to the girl’s arrest Monday is not related in any way to last week’s incident, nor have sheriff’s deputies received information that connects her to gang activity. Extra security was placed on campus in anticipation of the girl’s arrival to school, Curry said.

When announcing the boy’s arrest, McClain said that information surrounding his case indicated he was involved in local gang activity. The boy is being held in juvenile detention on probable cause for one felony count of aggravated assault, theft by receiving, possession of a controlled substance and carrying a weapon.

When asked what is the next step in helping to prevent similar threats to students, Curry said, “I don’t know. That’s a good question.” He then defended the work his security staff and administrators put in to addressing the latest incident, adding they met as a group Sunday to gather details.

“I think we’ve done a really good job,” Curry said. “Our security director and our principals and central office staff spent all day [Sunday] on their own time chasing down all this stuff with our kids. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. I don’t know of another school in the state with as much time and effort that this would have been given. At this point, we’ve got some problems. I don’t know exactly what it is, but they’re struggling.”

Curry also suggested students could be mentally frustrated from the effects of the ongoing pandemic.

“They are suffering from mental exhaustion,” he said. “There is a big mental health side of this thing we’ve been going through for almost two years.”

Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr. said in Monday’s news release that incidents of juveniles turning to violence are happening too frequently in the community.

“Threats, bullying and gun violence will always have a zero-tolerance in our schools,” he said. “Our youth must learn that there’s a better choice of how to respond when they disagree with one another. Parents and guardians must be more involved and engaged in their children’s daily lives now, more than ever. There is an urgent parental responsibility to know where your children are and what they are involved in every single day and night — all day and all night.”

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