CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville police believe a teenager in Albemarle County is responsible for an online, racist threat that caused city schools to close for two days.

The Charlottesville Police Department (CPD) announced Friday, March 22, that a 17-year-old boy was arrested at 6 a.m. The minor is charged with threats to commit serious bodily harm to persons on school property, and harassment by computer.

Investigators started working around the clock Wednesday, March 20, after they discovered an anonymous post that called for “ethnic cleansing” of black and Hispanic students. Out of caution, classes at Charlottesville’s public schools were canceled Thursday and Friday.

CPD Chief RaShall Brackney said during a press conference Friday that she believes the suspect acted alone.

“We want the community to know that any threats made against our schools - credible or not - are taken seriously and will be thoroughly investigated,” Chief Brackney said. “Any threat made against our community and its residents will be thoroughly and vigorously investigated.”

 Authorities worked with internet providers to lead them to the suspect, who is said to identify as Portuguese. Officers would not say whether they found any weapons on the suspect.

Additionally, the police chief is not releasing the teenager’s name because he is a juvenile, and at this time, that is how he is charged. The commonwealth’s attorney, as well as federal officials, may attempt to try the teenager as an adult.

Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins said during the same press conference that the teenager charged is not a city student.

School officials said they will embrace and welcome students back to classes on Monday, March 25. Counselors and support teams are preparing to meet with students and staff to bring calm back into the school system.

Teachers and staff from Clark Elementary School hosted a lunchtime event for students and the community Friday. They gathered at IX Art Park, near the Friendship Court neighborhood, to greet students and offer snacks.

“We're out here because we want to show solidarity. Charlottesville City Schools stands together, and we will fight together,” said  Charlottesville High School teacher Pamela Price-Brown. “We will not let this stop us in any way, shape, or form.”

“This is just awesome, I just love it,” said Tunisha Hopkins. “It made me feel good that my daughter’s teacher came and knocked on my door just to see how she was doing. These pass couple of days they haven't been in schools.”

There were other, similar events where city teachers and staff knocked on doors and provided lunches for students in other neighborhoods.


03/22/2019 Message Sent from Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins:

Dear staff and families,

Earlier today, the Charlottesville Police arrested and charged a teenager in connection to the threat made against CHS. The suspect does NOT attend Charlottesville City Schools or live in Charlottesville. He has been charged as a juvenile with making threats to persons on school property, which is a felony, and with harassment by computer.

We appreciate the support we have received from the CPD along with state and federal agencies, who took immediate and strong action to protect our schools as soon as they learned of this posting. We also appreciate our parents and community members for being so understanding and supportive of our students, staff, and our decision to close schools. We also want to thank our principals, teachers, staff members, and parents who spent today greeting students and families, and we thank the community centers who hosted us and fed our children.

Again, I want to state in the strongest possible language that our schools will not tolerate threats or hate. For reasons such as this, last fall, our School Board passed a resolution banning clothing or items with symbols of hate as one way to make our schools safe and supportive.

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. Since August 2017, we have made concerted efforts to have difficult conversations around race and to build trust and relationships.  This comment attempted to undermine our community.

We will NOT let this divide us, either as a school or as a city or even as a region. We know that this person does not represent CHS or Charlottesville or his own county.  As one way to show our solidarity, let us follow the lead of CHS teacher Pam Brown, who invites everyone to wear black or orange on Monday as a way of showing solidarity with our CHS Black Knights.

Go, Black Knights!

Dr. Rosa Atkins
Superintendent


03/22/2019 Release from the Charlottesville Police Department:

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA- This morning at 0600 hours, the Charlottesville Police Department made an arrest in connection with the online threats towards Charlottesville City Schools.

In the afternoon hours of Wednesday, March 20, 2019, the department was alerted to an online threat containing biased-based language targeting specific ethnic groups within Charlottesville High School.

An investigation was immediately launched and assisted by our local, state, and federal partners. CPD worked tirelessly over the past 48 hours to determine the source of the threat.

As a result, the Charlottesville Police Department has arrested and charged a 17-year-old male this morning with the following:

  1. Threats to commit serious bodily harm to persons on school property, a Class 6 Felony.
  2. Harassment by Computer, a Class 1 Misdemeanor.

The department commends the hard work of our detectives for their diligence and swift action in determining the source of the threat, and the cooperation received from Charlottesville City Schools, Albemarle County Police Department, the Virginia State Police and the FBI during this investigation.

Although the city schools were closed for two days as a precautionary measure, and while it may have caused some inconveniences, Chief [RaShall] Brackney stated,“The safety of our students and staff was the top priority for the department, the city, and the school district.”

We want the community to know that any potential threats made against our schools, credible or not, are taken seriously and will be vigorously investigated.

The department will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. at Charlottesville Police Department Headquarters, located at 606 East Market Street, Charlottesville, VA.


03/22/2019 Tweet from U.S. Senator Tim Kaine:

I am dismayed and very concerned by the hateful threats that have closed schools in Charlottesville. Expressions of violence and hate are never acceptable, whether written on an anonymous online forum or on the side of a building.