Web threat heightens security at Palmetto's Lincoln Middle School

A threat on social media has prompted the Manatee County School District to be on high alert. PROVIDED PHOTO
A threat on social media has prompted the Manatee County School District to be on high alert. PROVIDED PHOTO
Palmetto's Lincoln Middle takes precautions after vague threat in Florida and other states was made against a 'Lincoln school'

PALMETTO -- More than 200 of about 550 students enrolled at Lincoln Middle School stayed home Wednesday after a vague online threat was made against a "Lincoln school."

Manatee County School District officials and police do not believe the online shooting threat brought to the attention of parents, teachers and school officials Tuesday night is specific to Manatee County's Lincoln Middle School. Administrators nationwide at schools with the name Lincoln also saw the threat on social media, district spokesman Mike Barber said.

A ConnectEd phone call was sent to parents of Lincoln students Tuesday night and again Wednesday morning in Spanish and English from Principal Ed Hundley. In his morning message, Hundley asked parents to have students leave backpacks and purses at home.

"Working closely with the Palmetto Police Department through the night, we now believe the threat that was spotted on social media regarding a possible shooting today at Lincoln did not originate here in Manatee County," Hundley said in his message. "In fact, similar threats involving other schools named Lincoln have been reported in other states, and in other parts of Florida.

"Although we do not believe this threat was specifically aimed at Lincoln Middle, we will take extra precautions until we are sure there is no danger to students or staff."

The district and the Palmetto Police Department share the cost of one full-time school resource officer at the school, and extra police presence was available Wednesday.

Many more students missed school Wednesday than usual, Barber said.

Students who did bring backpacks to school had to leave them in a designated space while a police dog sniffed them. The security situation will be assessed on a day-to-day basis, Barber said.

"As long as we feel the need for the increased presence, we'll have it," he said.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.