Fully investigate alleged threats

Published 4:14 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

On Oct. 19, WAVY 10 ran a story on Isle of Wight County Schools Superintendent Jim Thornton’s allegations of death threats against him. This paper ran a similar story on Oct. 13.

Mr. Thornton previously stated — without evidence — publicly in a Board of Supervisors meeting that he had received four alleged death threats from a “group of 20 parents” who complained at school board meetings, including two threats made at that meeting. According to WAVY, Mr. Thornton received an email that ended with “tick tock Jimmy.”

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Mr. Thornton interpreted that email as a “bomb ticking.” It could also indicate that an alarm clock was going off. Both are pure speculation.

Apparently some of emails were untraceable because they were routed through a foreign server, yet Mr. Thornton has blamed the alleged death threats on the local parents with whom he disagreed. It is concerning that a local parent would be accused of sending such an email,  particularly without any evidence.

Importantly, this is not the first time Mr. Thornton has insinuated that parents have engaged in wrongdoing. Over the summer, Mr. Thornton was compelled to remove a social media post in which he insinuated that parents had done something wrong when a community member shared a less-than-inclusive photo of the diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator.

If Mr. Thornton is receiving threats, the local police department should have reports on all (four) of the death threats — not just one email that could be interpreted a number of ways from an untraceable email account. This is particularly so since he has made serious public accusations against a certain group of people.

Accordingly, an independent administrative investigation should be conducted to ensure, primarily, that Mr. Thornton is safe but also that innocent parents are not wrongly accused. In light of the U.S. attorney general’s Oct. 4 memo, it is important that this investigation begin immediately both to ensure that Mr. Thornton remains unharmed and that no innocent parent becomes the subject of a federal investigation.


Heidi Swartz