Clayton County Public Schools police Chief Clarence Cox addresses the news media Wednesday, following a school lock down at Mount Zion High. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)
JONESBORO — Clayton County Public Schools police are charging a Mount Zion High student with disrupting a public school after a false report was made about a weapon sighting on campus.
The lockdown lasted a few hours Wednesday as law enforcement swept the campus for signs of a weapon. None turned up, said school police Chief Clarence Cox, noting the false alarm interrupted testing at the school.
Cox said the report came while the school was without electricity. Strong thunderstorms knocked out electricity to as many as 45,000 Georgia Power customers statewide early Wednesday morning, including at several school campuses in Clayton County.
Mount Zion High students were assembled inside the gymnasium and hallways where there was more natural light and where school staff could “minimize movement,” said Cox.
He said during that time, around 8:40 a.m., a student reported to a school resource officer that she saw another student with a weapon.
“Because of that, we started to address the issue,” said Cox.
The school was immediately placed on lockdown. School police were aided by units from Clayton County Police, Clayton County Sheriff, Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as they searched the campus for signs of a weapon.
Cox said that at no time were the kids in any danger.
“This is the safest school in the nation right now,” he said with members of local and federal law enforcement surrounding him, the blue lights from some of their vehicles still flashing.
Cox said power at the school was restored by 11 a.m. Students were eating lunch and testing by his noon-hour press conference addressing the lockdown.
But some parents had been waiting for a few hours.
At one point, frustrated spectators began chanting “We want our kids.”
School police Maj. Alan Parker calmed the agitated crowd.
“Parents have got to stop panicking,” said Cox. “You can’t come into the school when the school is on lockdown, and we can’t release students.”
Sam Hibbert was one of the calmer voices in the crowd.
He had only arrived in response to a request from his mother to bring push lights for her to use during the power outage. His mother works at the school.
Hibbert deduced the weapon threat must have happened between that conversation with his mom and his arriving at Mount Zion High. He stood and waited with others in the growing crowd of spectators as officers addressed the media.
“I’m relieved to know that the situation at Mount Zion High School, where my mother works, was not a real threat,” said Hibbert. “I’m happy at that quick response by the local police department and most of all that everybody is safe. Safety should be on everybody’s mind.”
He sympathized with parents.
“It’s understandable why parents would be frightened,” he said. “What we need to do as a community when these things happen is come together as one.”