Following the school shooting massacre Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn., school safety has become a top priority on everyone’s mind.
As a result, local law enforcement officers are working to ease community fears by ramping up their presence at Lincoln County schools.
At the same time, members of the community have been moved by the tragedy and our looking for ways to express their grief.
Sheriff David Carpenter told the Times-News on Monday that his agency has followed up on multiple rumors this week about students bringing guns to campus at every county high school. He reassured the community that none of the threats were real.
“They were all rumors — no credible threat of any kind,” he said.
Today the Sheriff’s Office placed one deputy apiece at each county school as a way to close out the semester on a safe note and keep students’ and teachers’ uneasiness at bay.
“They’ll be walking through the hallways” Carpenter said of officers. “We want to reassure parents we’re running a safe school environment.”
Carpenter wasn’t surprised by the number of rumored school threats this week in Lincoln County since he witnessed a similar area influx more than decade ago with one of the nation’s first memorable school shootings.
“I remember all this when Columbine happened,” he said.
At the time of the particular Colorado school incident in 1999, Carpenter was working as Sheriff’s Lieutenant of Operations, supervising all school resource officers in the county.
On the other hand, Lincolnton Police Chief Rodney Jordan said schools within the city have had no such rumored threats following the Shady Brook Elementary attack.
Police officials met with city elementary school officials earlier this week to reassure them that police would also be stepping up their campus presence and would be make themselves available for any school wishing to update their lockdown procedure.
“We let them know we are here for them … regarding any issues that may come up,” Jordan said.
While last week’s mass shooting has provoked understandable fears, it has also brought out deep sadness as many felt a connection with the bereaved parents.
Local business owner Jason Ingle, of Flatline Graphics & Screen Printing in Lincolnton, decided to generate area support for Newtown, Conn., by creating a banner for community members to sign. He initially setup the banner Monday in front of Lowe’s Home Improvement in Lincolnton.
County officials called him on Wednesday, inviting him to move the banner to the front lawn of the courthouse, next to the giant city Christmas tree, so more residents could see it.
Ingle plans to leave the banner up through Christmas Eve and ship it off one day next week to Edmond Town Hall in Newtown.
Father of two daughters, ages six and two, Ingle’s empathy for the suffering Connecticut parents motivated him to produce the banner.
“It kinda hit home,” he said.
He compared Newtown to Lincolnton, calling them both “tight-knit” communities.
“I did the banner to show them (in Newtown) everyone is behind them and praying for them,” Ingle said.
The Times-News spoke with Crouse resident Ray Costner on Thursday as he signed the banner with a special message from him and his wife to the victims’ parents.
“That’s just a heartbreaker,” he said. “There’s no way to feel their pain.”
Additional banner messages included “My heart hurts for you,” “Hearts are broken all across the nation” and “I hope that each and everyone of you can find peace,” among others.