​​Fighting, threats send law enforcement to Smithfield High

Published 12:35 pm Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office stationed additional personnel at Smithfield High School and other schools Tuesday morning in response to threats made via social media.

According to Capt. Tommy Potter, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, there have been “a number of social media posts” since the school shooting at Heritage High School in Newport News regarding “threats toward our schools,” specifically Smithfield High.

Potter believes the threats to be the work of a copycat seeking to capitalize on the Heritage High School shooting. Sometimes, these types of incidents “bleed over into surrounding towns and cities,” Potter said. But “as a precaution, we have posted extra personnel at all of our schools just to be present and to reassure parents and staff that we have the safety and security of the schools first and foremost.”

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On Monday, a 17-year-old boy was shot in the side of the face and a 17-year-old girl was shot in the lower leg at Heritage High School, according to reporting by WAVY TV. Both are expected to recover and the alleged shooter, who is also a juvenile, is in custody.

The latest threats come on the heels of several vandalism incidents and a lockdown at Smithfield High on Sept. 16 after a large fight spilled from the school’s cafeteria into its commons area. According to Lynn Briggs, spokeswoman for Isle of Wight County Schools, law enforcement was called to deal with the Sept. 16 situation.

“Today’s incident is being investigated and appropriate consequences will be issued,” Briggs said of the latest threat. “There is no change to school dismissal for this afternoon.”

According to a letter SHS Principal Bryan Thrift sent to parents last week, the fight began “over conflicts that occurred in the community and were brought into the school.” A number of students ran toward the fight and “further incited the group.”

“Fighting is NOT tolerated in the building, on school grounds, on the bus, or at any school events,” Thrift wrote. “Students who fight or spectators who urge on students in fights will receive severe consequences. I do want to share that staff members and the School Resource Officer jumped in to contain and control those involved in the fight. They understand the importance of keeping a safe environment throughout the building and they stepped up without hesitation when needed. I commend them for their assistance with quickly restoring order to the commons area.”

Thrift is attributing the vandalism to a TikTok social media challenge that’s been going viral nationwide.

“Students across the country are committing acts of vandalism and theft in schools then posting the videos to the TikTok app,” Thrift wrote.

“Schools have limited resources and replacing soap dispensers and toilets that are damaged or missing because of these acts seriously impacts our budget,” Thrift wrote. “It is also an extreme inconvenience for students when restroom resources are unavailable for their use. Students responsible for these destructive acts will not only be disciplined, but they, or more likely you, will be expected to compensate the school for the damage.”

He concluded his letter by addressing “numerous students who are wearing inappropriate clothing to school.”

“Tops should completely cover a student’s stomach and bottoms need to cover their bottom — completely. The staff and I will be sending students home when they violate the dress code,” Thrift wrote. “Continued violation of the dress code will result in additional discipline.”

“The staff and I cannot resolve these issues in isolation,” he added. “That is why I’m contacting you. Remind your child that fighting, vandalism, and dress code violations will not be tolerated. We need your support in explaining the severity of disregarding these three school rules. Punishment can include removal from school and, depending on the situation, criminal charges. We are only 9 days into the school year. This behavior cannot continue.”