By Matt Wiley
Schools across the country have been on edge during the weeks following one of the biggest school shootings in history. The fact that bullets were discovered on school buses that serve New Tampa schools two days in a row less than a week after the incidents in Newtown, CT, 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 Dec. 17), more 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 uncovered. 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 Dec. 17 & 18 incidents 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.
Schools across the New Tampa and Wesley Chapel areas 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), while Wesley Chapel schools were patrolled by armed deputies from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) 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 schools from the sky in Tampa, according to a media release from HCSD.