The anonymous threat that was posted online Wednesday warned of an “ethnic cleansing” at Charlottesville High School the following day. It used racist language to describe black and Latino students and told white students to stay home.
The suspect has been charged with threats to commit serious bodily harm on school property, a felony, and harassment by computer, a misdemeanor, Brackney said at a news conference attended by law enforcement and city leaders, including Mayor Nikuyah Walker.
Brackney said Charlottesville detectives worked closely with Albemarle County law enforcement officers, the Virginia State Police and the FBI to identify and apprehend the suspect.
The announcement of the arrest helped quell some of the anxiety that had engulfed Charlottesville since news of the threat was made public Wednesday.
Brackney addressed the city’s apprehension with a firm statement of resolve. “Any threats made against our community and its residents will be thoroughly and vigorously investigated,” she said. “We want the community and the world to know that hate is not welcomed in Charlottesville. Violence is not welcomed in Charlottesville. Intolerance is not welcomed in Charlottesville.”
Then, in an apparent reference to President Trump’s remark that “very fine people on both sides” took part in the deadly white supremacy rally that rocked the city in August 2017, Brackney said, “In Charlottesville and around the globe, we stand firmly in stating there are not very fine people on both sides of this issue.”
The school shutdown kept the district’s more than 4,300 students out of classes for two days. Schools are scheduled to reopen Monday.
Another juvenile was arrested Thursday evening in Albemarle County and accused of using social media to threaten a shooting at Albemarle High School. Officials said that incident and the earlier threat against Charlottesville High School were not related. Charlottesville is the county seat of Albemarle County, but it operates a separate school district from the county’s.
Joseph Erardi, retired superintendent of public schools in Newtown, Conn., and a consultant with the American Association of School Administrators, said because of the nature of the threat, Charlottesville schools and public safety officials were right to keep schools closed Thursday and Friday.
“I don’t know if any superintendent would do anything other than err on the side of caution and safety,” said Erardi, who joined the Newtown schools after the 2012 shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “I would clearly feel more comfortable apologizing for erring on the side of caution rather than stand in front of the national media after a horrific event and say, ‘Here’s what I knew, and this is why I decided not to act.’ ”
In a message to families Friday, Rosa Atkins, superintendent of Charlottesville City Public Schools, expressed appreciation for the support the system received for its decision to close schools in response to the threat.
She said the threat was an attempt “to undermine our community.”
“I find it particularly troubling that a person who is not part of our Charlottesville City Schools community would make such a hurtful and divisive threat under the guise of being a CHS student,” Atkins said. “Since August 2017, we have made concerted efforts to have difficult conversations around race and to build trust and relationships. . . . We will not let this divide us, either as a school or as a city or even as a region.”
Images circulating on Reddit and other social media sites referred to a post on 4chan, an anonymous online messaging board, that included a racist meme. Those threats made public what some people knew privately, Kristin Clarens, a parent of two elementary school students, said: Charlottesville is not always safe for people of color and newly arrived immigrants.
“This is not a new threat here. For some parents, particularly parents of young children, this is the first time they felt it so acutely,” she said. “It’s clear to a lot of members of our community every day.”
On Friday, as schools across the city were shuttered for a second day, teachers, administrators and parents knocked on students’ homes, greeting them with hugs and letting them know they were missed. They wheeled snacks in wagons and blared pop music from speakers as they made their way to homes and community centers.
Pamela Price Brown, a Charlottesville High teacher, waved a large orange cheerleading flag that bore the initials “CHS” as she moved through neighborhoods. She hoped to assure students their education would not be compromised.
“It’s important for our students to see that we’re not going to let this affect us. We’re going to keep doing what we’re going to do,” Brown said. “We’re going to keep educating our kids, show them that we care and show them that hate has no place at Charlottesville High School.”
As Brown spoke, Jarvis Jackson, a 17-year-old student at the school, came up.
“How are you, baby?” Brown asked as they hugged.
Jackson hadn’t known teachers from his school planned to visit his neighborhood following the threat and the decision to cancel classes.
“It’s scary for a lot of people. And this, right here, means a lot,” he said. “When our community is together, it makes people feel a lot more secure.”
He felt the school system’s decision to close was appropriate — the rally of white supremacists in 2017 taught people “threats can be serious,” Jackson said.
School employees and other volunteers served students lunch in community centers, filling plates with chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese, cantaloupe and cookies.
Anna Isley, principal at Clark Elementary School, stood outside a community center as students from her school gathered around tables inside. All of the students at her school receive free breakfast and lunch under a federal program for schools with large populations of students from low-
“The community is working really, really closely together. Certainly, safety trumps everything,” she said. “That’s our number one priority.”
Heim reported from Washington.