On Friday, the school resource officer at South Cumberland Elementary in Crossville, Tenn., received an anonymous tip: Someone might be planning a shooting.
There was a “hit list,” the tipster said, containing names of students to be targeted. The resource officer immediately contacted authorities and an investigation was launched, according to a joint statement issued Monday by the Cumberland County schools, the county sheriff’s office and the Crossville Police Department.
Two sixth-grade students were charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder Friday after authorities discovered the plot. Their names have not been released, and they are in custody at the Cumberland County Juvenile Detention Facility, awaiting a hearing.
Though investigators eventually found no “hit list,” they did find a hand-drawn map of the school and a “plot” between the two students to hide weapons in the locker room for an attack on the last day of school, the statement said. Over “multiple conversations,” the two planned to kill students and staff members before dying by suicide.
At a news conference Monday, Gary Howard of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said that while the school was never in immediate danger, authorities felt the need to investigate the threat seriously.
“We did not have an active threat, but we did have an investigation that needed to go forward,” he said. Law enforcement searched the school and the houses of the suspected students and did not find weapons, he said. The families and the accused students have been cooperative with the investigation.
Parents were not notified of the investigation immediately, Howard said, because of fears it would compromise the investigation. WATE reported that parents had been upset by that decision.
School district director Janet Graham emphasized Monday that students and faculty were “under no danger at any point during this entire time."
However, in an era in which school shootings frequently make national headlines, the school and law enforcement would not take any chances.
“It’s one of those things that always makes you sick to the pit of your stomach,” she said. “Regardless of whether it’s viable or whether somebody’s really done something, our children and faculty and staff are our most precious commodity.”