Director for school-based services: Social media should be limited after a school threat

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- School leaders across the Tri-Cities are trying to calm fears after threats of violence on campus and widespread social media speculation.

For students and their families at Dobyns-Bennett High School – it’s been a day of intense emotions.

PREVIOUS STORY: KPD: Large police presence at Dobyns-Bennett in response to unconfirmed report of armed individuals near school

“I heard some shouting outside… I asked some people what was going on, what was happening. They just said it was a lockdown,” said sophomore Prince McDowell.

Police say officers already were at the school because of the threat.

SEE MORE: Investigation underway after threatening note found at Dobyns-Bennett High School

Then just before 11 am – a dryer fire caused a brief evacuation. Around noon call to police about possibly armed people seen in a nearby neighborhood.

SEE MORE: Dobyns-Bennett students briefly evacuated after dryer catches fire in CTE building

By then – police say some students were so scared – they tried to get away from campus.

“When that lockdown was announced there was a lot of people on edge as a result of a note found the previous day. They were already tense over all that and as a result of that some students ran from the school in a panic,” said Kingsport Police Department spokesman Tom Patton.

Panic soon started to spread through social media with posts showing photos and video claiming to be from inside Dobyns-Bennett.

“I was just texting [my grandmother] about like ‘Hey, try to come get me, when can you get me, who can get me?’ Because I just wanted to get out of the school as fast as possible,” said McDowell.

Police have not commented on the social media posts.

Kingsport School leaders referred all questions to police.

But superintendent Dr. Jeff Moorhouse released a statement Wednesday night saying in part – fear among students and families was “…heightened due to what is often misinformation being shared across social media.”

“Social media can be great but it also can perpetuate a lot of myths…so I think limit that activity particularly after an event,” said Crystal Miller, Director for school-based services at Highlands Community Services in Abingdon.

She urged parents to be involved and to stay calm so they can help their kids.

“I would encourage parents to ask questions- what do they know? Fill in any gaps for the child,” said Miller.

Classes at Dobyns-Bennett High School will resume on a normal schedule Thursday.

Police say they will have increased security across the campus.

Elizabethton schools were on a precautionary lockdown for part of the day- administrators said it was because of a lockdown in a nearby district.

SEE MORE: UPDATE: Precautionary lockdown lifted at Elizabethton City Schools

Wednesday night Johnson City Schools sent an alert to parents and posted on social media that they are aware of the threats circulating on social media in other school districts.

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