New social worker can’t come soon enough to Rapp schools

Word of another potential tragedy averted in county

While Rappahannock County Public Schools were pressing in recent weeks for the need of a full-time social worker on staff to deal with increasingly complex mental health issues, word filtered out of yet another potential tragedy averted in the county 5 or so years ago.

And in the nick of time, it turns out.

More remarkable, it was an individual thousands of miles away from Rappahannock County who sounded the alarm to state and subsequently local authorities.

While the account was confirmed by more than one source with direct knowledge of the events that transpired, due to juvenile confidentiality laws the Rappahannock News believes that maintaining the anonymity of sourcing and keeping several details of this story vague are important, in order to tell a larger story of importance to our community.

As told to this newspaper, off the northern coast of Scotland lies Orkney, an archipelago of 70 islands, 20 of which are inhabited. An Orkney resident who was surfing on his computer clicked into a particular website and in doing so stumbled upon a dire warning allegedly posted by a young person — from the Amissville area, it turned out.

In short, that person threatened to cause mayhem at a school commencement exercise scheduled for the immediate future. The Orkney resident wasted little time contacting Virginia State Police, who in turn alerted law enforcement officials in Rappahannock County.

Acting on the tip from 3,500 miles away, authorities proceeded to the suspect’s Amissville area house, where we are told he lived with his parents. There, a large stockpile of firearms and ammunition was discovered, but those weapons were said to be securely locked. Other weapons found in the home included knives and nunchucks.

What reportedly shocked authorities the most, however, was a poster in the young suspect’s bedroom depicting Virginia Tech gunman Seung-hui Cho, who in April 2007 went on a rampage and killed 32 students and teachers — the first victim 19-year-old freshman Emily Jane Hilscher of Woodville. Another 23 students and faculty were injured, 17 by gunfire.

Because the young person allegedly posting the threat was a juvenile at the time, under the age of 18, all court files were and remain sealed. Whether the suspect was ever charged with a crime could not be confirmed. Shortly after the incident the family moved away from Rappahannock County.

The graduation commencement was held without incident, with few people even aware of the prior threat.

More recent threat

The incident sheds further light on the fact that even a school in a rural county like Rappahannock is not immune to today’s troubling realities when it comes to the threat of violence.

Two years ago last month, two students of Rappahannock County High School allegedly counted down the days until the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting massacre, when according to a court affidavit obtained by the News they plotted to “make Columbine look like a joke” and “blow this place to pieces.”

According to the affidavit for a search warrant served by the Sheriff’s Office: “On April 5, 2017, while at Rappahannock County High School, [the suspect] was overheard speaking with at least one other student where he gave a ‘countdown’ stating ‘fifteen more days,’ indicating the number of days left until the date of April 20, 2017” — the 18th anniversary of the Columbine violence in Colorado.

It was a fellow student of the two suspects, then aged 16 and 17, who sounded the alarm to Rappahannock authorities.

Resources to help

Fast forward to this past Monday night, when RCPS Superintendent Dr. Shannon Grimsley requested that the Board of Supervisors provide her pair of schools with additional FY20 funding to bring aboard what would be its first-ever social worker to deal with the aforementioned new reality, including substance abuse, mental health issues and more.

For that matter, Grimsley disclosed earlier this year that 17 percent of Rappahannock County High School students said they had seriously considered suicide, a percentage that has risen the past three years.

The supervisors at their meeting provided Grimsley with all but $25,000 of her budget request, which will still provide for a social worker and 4 percent raise for school teachers and staff.

“We will find it [the extra money] from within,” an upbeat Grimsley told the News on Tuesday. In fact, she said the new social worker position is already advertised. “It’s posted, as soon as we found out.”

“I’m very honored so many community members spoke in support of the schools,” said the superintendent. “This community loves it children and that was made crystal clear.”

About John McCaslin 449 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.

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