MADISON, Ala. - Madison Police say they have arrested a juvenile for making threats against a Madison City School. The arrest comes after officers received a tip on its Text to Protect Tip Line.
Officers say they received the tip on Monday regarding a possible threat. Officers, detectives, and school resource officers identified a juvenile who was then arrested on Tuesday.
Madison Police say they cannot release any further information because of the age of the person arrested. We do understand the person is charged with Making a Terrorist Threat.
"This was a combined team effort and it was also another good example of community policing and teamwork," said Captain John Stringer, Investigations Division Commander.
Stringer said students need to know that threats are taken seriously, and community concern is high. Charges are very possible if you're responsible, he said.
He wants young people to know: "You may think that it's a joke. You may think that you're having a bad day and making comments. But the truth of the matter is, somebody is going to take it seriously. It is going to cause alarm, and it could disrupt the operation of the whole organization. Anytime somebody makes a potential threat against a school or any organization like that, especially in our culture now, it is going to be taken seriously."
The number for Text To Protect is 256-604-2345. Students are encouraged to use the confidential tip line to report threats or suspicious activities.
"All the supervisors in the department get the tips through email. Dispatch gets it too," Captain Stringer said. "There's always someone there who can get the tip and respond to you in real time."
He said the department gets tips through this text line every day.
"We just want to make sure especially our student population is using it. If you see something, they feel uneasy about something, please send us a text on it. Give us all the information you possibly can," he said. "We've been fortunate that we haven't just identified potential acts of violence, but we have been able to identify suicidal students, we've even identified some students with eating disorders to make sure we got them the appropriate resources."
The community has even started using it to help the department receive tips.
Superintendent Robby Parker sent this message to parents:
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Yesterday, Madison Police began investigating a case at Bob Jones. The investigation was in response to a tip that came in through the school district’s anonymous tip line. No weapon was involved. An arrest was made. At no time were students in danger.
It is an unfortunate incident, but we are grateful the tip line worked. We encourage anyone to come forward with any safety concern, whether there is a threat against others or an individual posing harm to himself or herself.
In light of all the recent school safety concerns, I wanted you to know and assure you that we are diligent in doing all we can to provide a safe environment for our kids. All of our schools have safety plans and those plans are under constant review.
Once again, the Text to Protect line number is 256-604-2345. Please make sure your child has this number programmed in their phone.
Parker said that he is thankful the system worked.
"We have asked our kids and tried to instill in our kids that if there is an issue, they need to let somebody know," he said. "Our system worked. In this instance, somebody said something. We are very thankful we were able to address it."
He said the district takes these seriously every time, especially because of more recent concerns about school violence in the nation.
"We're always hypersensitive to it, but we are double hyper-sensitive to it now," he explained.
Parker said the district locks doors at each of the schools, has distance and security between the front doors and the classrooms, and has lockdown procedures in place if they need them. The school resource officers are also in place around the school system.
But Parker wants to see more SRO's in place.
He explained that the high schools each have two, the middle schools each have one, and the elementary schools have SRO's that travel between schools. He said he is working on a plan, with police and board involvement, to put more SRO's in the elementary schools so each school has one assigned to it.
"It's one of my goals to have a school resource officer in every school," he said. "I'm working with Chief Jernigan and his staff right now, who are very supportive of us. A lot of it is training. So the chief is looking at different options and trying to get them trained. It's not something where we can hire immediately."
Parker said Madison pays for its SRO's out of school funds.
"Even with that, though, I'm confident the board will allow us to find money. Whatever it takes to get staff in place once people are trained."