Dr. Chan Anderson, superintendent of Chesterfield County School District; Chesterfield County Sheriff Cambo Streater; and Sandy McCormick, acting Cheraw Police Chief, held a press conference on Friday afternoon at Cheraw High to alleviate parents, students, and community concerns about safety at the school.
Confusion earlier in the afternoon resulted in panicked students. Streater said there was no security breach at all.
Anderson said the confusion resulted from someone screaming that someone on campus had a weapon. He added there wasn’t a weapon.
“There was a scream, and kids started panicking,” he said. “School administration and law enforcement were on the scene. The school was locked down, which was protocol. It was all clear. At no time during the day, at all, was there a weapon on campus.”
“It caused a bit of confusion about what was going on,” Streater said. “It took a little bit of time to clear everything up. We knew quickly that there was no threat to the students, staff, or anybody.”
McCormick said the Cheraw Police Department was on campus within roughly 15 seconds of being notified.
Anderson wanted parents and students to know that Cheraw High School is safe.
The school is on alert due to an incident on Dec. 6, where two young men were able to gain access to the school.
Anderson said two young men entered the building behind a parent on Wednesday, Dec. 6.
“Those two young men should not have been able to enter into the school. They did. We have some safety measures put in place, and we’re certainly looking forward to doing them.”
Streater said his office is working with the school district to identify the two young men.
He added once they are identified that they intend to talk to them and find out why they were in the school.
The school resource at Cheraw High School was on a field trip when the incident happened on Dec. 6.
District officials reminded everyone of the protocol for parents and visitors to enter any school in the district should be buzzed in, then granted access from the office. They walk in through the metal detector (in middle and high schools), granted access into the office where they will shared with the purposes of the visit.
Weapon detectors have been ordered and are anticipated to arrive on Monday.
Streater said they are state-of-the-art, very sensitive, and designed to pick up weapons or any explosive devices.
While there was some confusion Friday afternoon, district officials and law enforcement said they were able to learn a lot from what happened.
“We learned some things today about congestion in front of the school, getting vehicles in and out and, and where people need to stage up. So there was some lessons learned today that we’re going take and put in our plans for the future. Hopefully, we will never have to use them in a real-life situation.”
Anderson said it is key for the district is to make sure that the details provided are accurate.
“It takes time because we don’t want several stories out there to confuse parents,” Anderson said. “If they can just be patient. We want to make sure that we give accurate information to the community and to our parents.”
Information is sent out to parents by phone, via email, and all of the district’s social media platforms.
But, said McCormick, they have to have time to be able to do it.
“It is not something we can do within the first three or four minutes of this happening. We will to get all the information before we can post something so that it’s accurate.”
Getting information out is a collaborative effort of the school district, Sheriff’s Office, and Cheraw Police Department.
“It is all three of us working together to present one message,” Anderson said.
He added it is a collective effort of law enforcement and the school district.
“We cannot operate in isolation, and we don’t operate in isolation,” Anderson said. “We depend on each other and we depend on the community as well to help us keep all of our school facilities safe.”
Anderson, Streater, and McCormick felt some sensationalism on social media, which added to the confusion.
“I would caution everyone that when you read something on social media, take to check it out before you repeat or take it to heart because I guarantee most of it will not be true,” Streater said. “To parents of students here, a lot of chatter on Facebook right now is pointing a lot of fingers at people. I assure you that we’re doing our best to find out what happened this week so it can be fixed. Help us by giving us a chance to do that before you comment.”
Anderson ended the press conference with Cheraw High School, and all of the district’s schools are safe.
“We are going to continue to work on safety as an ongoing priority for us and it will always be an ongoing priority for us. We’re not perfect, but we’re always striving to do the right thing and to continue to put additional safety measures in place.
Anderson added that learning is key.
“However, we want to make sure that all of our staff, students, and parents feel safe so learning can take place undisturbed.”
Streater agreed the safety of students is a top priority for us.
“There’s nothing more important that we do with law enforcement to keep our kids safe, and we are going to do everything humanly possible to ensure that happens.”
Anderson said the school administrators are responsible for ensuring all our students go through them.
Anderson will be available in the cafeteria at Cheraw High School from 4:30 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 12, and Thursday, Dec. 14, to discuss the Dec. 6 incident, any safety matters, and solutions with students, parents, and community members.