Still dealing with last year's shooting, parents respond to 'swatting call' at New Hanover High School
Around 9 a.m. this morning, there was a large law enforcement presence in front of New Hanover High School, blocking off parts of Market and Dock Streets for a possible threat of an active shooter; however, shortly thereafter, the Sheriff’s Office said it was a false alarm. WHQR was on the scene to talk to parents about the ‘swatting call’, a fake 911 call designed to cause a SWAT team response.
Alli Dawson is the mother of a senior at New Hanover High School.
“I was getting gas on my way to work, and a woman asked me if there was an active shooter at New Hanover High School, so I just came straight here,” Dawson said.
Concerns about an 'active shooter' on Thursday morning were ultimately unfounded, but Dawson said her family is still coping with a very real shooting incident, as her daughter was five feet away from the shooter on the catwalk at New Hanover in August 2021.
“And I don't care if this is a prank or whatever. It's not cool. It's not funny. The clear bookbags I get, but I'd rather see that funding go towards something else that’s going to stop this from happening over and over again, like what is it going to take?” Dawson said.
Ben Rigby is another parent of a student at NHHS. He said drove to the school when he got a text from his daughter saying they were locked down in her classroom.
He said his daughter was also a student at the time of the August 2021 shooting.
“I just wanted to be able to see her as soon as we're able to, just to comfort her,” Rigby said.
He added that his daughter told him that “the kids were all communicating through Snapchat that it's an active shooter, and they can hear the police yelling in the hallways and things like that,” Rigby said.
“Unfortunately, these kids have to have their learning interrupted, and to deal with this on a recurring basis, it’s sad,” Rigby said.
Dawson said she wants more action on the district’s part to prevent this from happening in the future — and said she too is ready to support these efforts.
“There's more that can be done for our children's safety.[...] Somebody's got to do something somehow, like if we all have to get together and figure something out, that's fine, too. I'm willing to do whatever,” Dawson said.
Stephanie Walker, the vice-chair of the New Hanover County School Board, said of the incident: “I know we’ve been informed that this was a hoax, but it’s very unfortunate that there are folks who are needlessly bringing stress to a school community who have been through so much already. As an alumna of New Hanover High, I know what a wonderful school it is, and we are a community who are deeply for our school. We need to work on ways to lift them up and support them as a community and as a school board.”
And it wasn’t just the New Hanover High School community that went through this situation on Thursday.
The Raleigh News and Observer reported multiple other counties were locked down because of these ‘swatting calls’ — including Wake, Durham, Mecklenburg, Alamance, Forsyth, and Cumberland; at least 10 separate schools were impacted.
While law enforcement, including the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office, have noted that these were similar calls it remains unclear who was responsible.