Potential school shooting thwarted

  • 17-year-old male Rapp student arrested

  • Allegedly boasted of ‘shooting up the school’

Potential tragedy has been averted at Rappahannock County High School with the arrest of a 17-year-old male student who allegedly boasted of “coming in and shooting up the school.”

That according to a source within the county school system, who was speaking on condition of anonymity. It is not known at this time whether it was the suspect’s fellow students who sounded the alarm.

In a two-paragraph statement issued Tuesday evening, Rappahannock County Sheriff Connie Compton confirmed: “One juvenile suspect has been arrested and charged with conspiracy to possess a firearm on the property of the high school.”

She had told this newspaper on Monday that the investigation had been ongoing “for a week” and still continues. Whether additional suspects are under investigation has not been confirmed.

“The juvenile suspect remains incarcerated in a juvenile detention center at this time,” Compton said, providing no further details.

The sheriff’s statement did not say how the threat was made — verbally or in writing — when the arrest of the suspect took place, or even whether the juvenile attended Rappahannock High School.

But school sources said the suspect was a junior at the high school and much of the student body knew his identity by the time they returned from spring break on Tuesday to find tighter security measures in place.

Indeed, before classes resumed Tuesday morning school administrators summoned the high school’s teachers to an emergency faculty meeting at 7 a.m. in the school library. When teachers arrived there were two Virginia State Police K9 units in the parking lot. A sheriff’s deputy was present at the meeting, when the faculty were then informed of the threat against the school.

Sheriff Compton was seen leaving the school shortly before 7 a.m. after a K-9 sweep was completed.

School officials assured the faculty that the sheriff’s office had effectively neutralized the threat, although few details were provided to the visibly concerned teachers. The faculty were then told that new security measures were going into effect immediately — with the school remaining “extremely vigilant for the rest of the year.”

That includes keeping classroom doors locked at all times and being on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary — even backpacks left unattended on the floor.

Students who leave a classroom for any reason, teachers were also told, must now “sign out” by name, including the time and destination.

“The number one priority is keeping people in this building safe,” said one administrator.

Photo by John McCaslin
Acting Superintendent Gary Blair.

In a letter sent home to parents Tuesday afternoon, acting Superintendent Gary Blair said information was received a week ago “regarding a perceived threat at our high school. The sheriff’s department conducted a decisive and detailed investigation.

“The administration, in conjunction with the sheriff’s department, have removed this threat,” Blair wrote to parents. “Prior to the return of students, the sheriff’s department and the administration have conducted security assessments and the high school has revised and increased its security checks and procedures.”

Blair added: “There is no heightened security threat and we wish to reassure you that the safety of our students, employees and patrons remain our primary focus. As a precaution, we have also completed security checks at our elementary school.”

Elementary school testing that was to have been held this week has been rescheduled for next week.

In her statement, Sheriff Compton noted that the school system “coordinated efforts with the sheriff’s office to take additional security measures” and the “sheriff’s office will continue to work with the schools to ensure all students and staff remain safe.”

As for additional suspects, sources told this newspaper that law enforcement searches took place at more than one location in Rappahannock County, although the sheriff did not comment on that aspect of the investigation. It would be assumed that any electronic equipment belonging to the suspect would have been confiscated as evidence during the search.

About John McCaslin 135 Articles

John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.