A North Harford Middle School student was charged with posession of a deadly weapon Friday after police said he brought a large knife to school.
The incident came as Harford County Public Schools were on alert following the spread of rumors on social media regarding a possible violent incident at one of their schools.
According to Harford County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Edward Hopkins, a deputy went to the school at 8:30 a.m. to conduct a patrol check. While there, the school’s principal told the deputy two students had reported an eighth-grade student was in possession of a knife.
A survival-type knife, approximately six inches long in a leather sheath, was recovered. The student’s father was notified, Hopkins said, and the youth was charged with possession of a deadly weapon on school property before being released to his parents.
In a robo-call Thursday night, Harford County Public Schools officials said rumors of a potential incident spreading online had been deemed not credible, but that additional police presence would be at the schools on Friday.
According to Hopkins, the school system had initially only asked for Sheriff’s Office deputies to patrol schools as part of their usual duties, rather than take up positions at every school.
“There was not a request from the School System for increased patrols to specifically mean law enforcement would have a presence at each school,” he said in an e-mail. “Their expectation was that police would patrol through as often as possible. Not necessarily sit at each school. As you know we have SRO’s that serve at the high and middle schools in the county and would already have a consistent presence in those schools.”
“Given the latest events in Conn it also would have been a normal course of daily business for deputies to conduct additional patrols of schools and communities–maybe have a higher visibility than normal–as part of their duties,” he added.
That changed after the school system’s robo call, as citizens began contacting authorities, concerned for their children’s safety.
“Precincts began receiving inquiries from citizens stating that Facebook chatter and other social media forums were driving additional rumors, speculation, uncertainty and fear,” Hopkins said in an e-mail Friday. “After being advised of this members of the Sheriff’s Command Staff met late Thursday evening December 20th and in an abundance of caution, and in an attempt to minimize that fear, decided to hold the midnight shift over having those deputies stand by or have a presence at schools not covered by SRO’s.”