Lancaster Schools To Heighten Security Friday After Threats

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UPDATE: 5:48 PM Lancaster City Schools will have an added police presence Friday, after a high school student was charged Thursday with inducing panic at a Lancaster school.

Fairfield County sheriff's deputies arrested the unidentified 17-year-old student Thursday afternoon after an alleged "hit list" was discovered at Lancaster High School.

Sheriff Dave Phalen said the alleged list was written in an office where students serve suspensions.

Steve Wigton, superintendent of Lancaster City Schools, said the names of nine high school students were on the list, including the name of the student who allegedly wrote it.

He said school officials became concerned with threats Wednesday evening, as numerous students posted a rumor on social media websites which indicated that a shooting would occur at Lancaster High School on Friday.

"Every [student] that we interviewed concerning that could not provide any further details," said Wigton. "They were stating that they were simply passing on what they had heard."

Wigton said high school administrators addressed the rumor with the student body Thursday morning.

"They made an announcement [Thursday] morning at school concerning these rumors and encouraged anyone that had specific information to come forward with it. We also reminded students that passing on unfounded rumors serves to disrupt the school and create threatening situations to the public," said Wigton.

Phalen said the student who allegedly wrote the hit list was questioned by deputies and later released to his parents on Thursday.

"After talking with him and talking to his parents, we don't have any indication that he was planning to follow through with it." said Phalen.

Wigton said the student has been suspended and recommended for expulsion. The authorities were unable to tie the social media threats of the shooting to a specific person.

"The student will not be at Lancaster High School tomorrow. Of course, safety is a paramount priority for our school district. We're doing all that we can to ensure the safety of students and staff," he said.

The school district notified parents of the incident in a response posted on their website Thursday.

"At this time we cannot confirm that there is any credible threat of violence at Lancaster High School or any other school….we will continue to investigate this rumor or any other information we receive," the district stated online.

Law enforcement officers from the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office and Lancaster Police Department will be present at district schools on Friday to increase security measures; however, officials say they do not believe there is an existing threat to the school or community. 

"I sent out a letter to school officials throughout the county just letting them know that this is a good time to review their safety procedures and to practice," Phalen said.

This incident comes less than a week after a gunman shot and killed 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school.