By Matt Wiley
New Tampa schools have been on edge during the week following one of the biggest school shootings in history. The fact that bullets were discovered on school buses that serve our schools two days in a row has not helped.
Just one day after a bullet was found on a school bus serving three New Tampa schools (Wharton High, Liberty Middle and Turner Elementary on December 17), bullets were discovered on another Hillsborough County school bus, serving Freedom High and Greco Elementary in Temple Terrace.
The origin of the first bullet has been discovered. A release from the Hillsborough County School District (HCSD) says that an 18-year-old Wharton student told the school’s resource deputy that he had found the bullet in his apartment complex on the way to his bus stop and that it fell out of his pocket on the bus. At our press time, no students had come forward about the bullets discovered on December 18. No additional guns or ammunition were discovered at any of the schools either day.
All schools involved in the incidents from December 17-18 remained on what the Hillsborough County School District refers to as a “modified lockdown,” in which doors throughout the schools are locked and students are only allowed limited movement throughout the schools, at our press time. Access to these schools also was carefully controlled and identification was required to enter or have students released to parents from each of the schools.
Hillsborough County schools across the county already were operating with a heightened security presence following the December 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, where a gunmen killed 26 people, 20 of which were children, before turning the gun on himself.
New Tampa schools were patrolled by both the Tampa Police Department (TPD) and deputies from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) during the last week of classes prior to the holiday break. Officers from departments usually reserved for large-scale events were assigned to schools to provide a “visible presence.” Police helicopters also were used to patrol area schools from the sky, according to a media release from the School District.