Email warning of threat at Chesterfield school panics parents 

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Parents criticized the timing of an email after a school leader notified them about a threat to harm students at Salem Church Middle School in Chesterfield.

In an email sent to parents at 7 a.m. Thursday, Principal Lashante Knight wrote in part, "It was brought to my attention late last night that there are several student-generated messages circulating on social media about a threat of violence against our school...I will follow up with you as soon as the investigation is complete."

However, parents told CBS 6 that their children were already at the Salem Church Road school or enroute on a bus by the time they received the email.

"They should've called earlier if they knew about the threat the night before," Shannon Bogan said. "My kids' safety is more important than sending them to school and taking the chances."

Shannon Bogan and reporter Brendan King.

Shannon Bogan and reporter Brendan King.

Knight later sent a follow up email stating the threat was deemed not credible and responded to concerns about the timing of the message.

"And for those who have inquired about the timing of my message this morning, meaning why did you all not hear before 7 am, please know that I stand ready to communicate with you at any time, as I want you to always feel informed and assuage any fears you might have," she wrote. "However, the system we use for mass communication restricts the hours for which we can do that.  The system prohibits communication between 9 pm and 6:59 am; thus I scheduled the message to go out at the earliest possible time, which was 7:00 am."

Salem Church Middle School

Salem Church Middle School

CBS 6 learned that the information about the limitations of the system included in that communication to parents wasn't accurate.

Shawn Smith, a school spokesman, said in a statement: "Our system does have the capability to communicate 24 hours a day.  Moving forward, we will work closely with the school to ensure they are knowledgeable of the program’s functionality.”

Administrators at all Chesterfield County Schools have the ability to contact parents 24 hours a day.

The notification system is the same one that alerts parents to inclement weather.

Police did increase their presence throughout the day on Thursday as precaution.

Lt. Peter Cimbal said he believed school administrators would handle disciplinary actions against the student, who was not charged with a crime.