‘I say we crucify her.’ Gifted students’ messages show threats to teacher, SC cops say

One student threatened to tamper with a teacher’s car until she “crashes and dies.” Another suggested that students crucify her, while several more mentioned owning guns.

Nine eighth-graders at a middle school for gifted students in South Carolina were arrested after an off-duty police officer saw screenshots of a social media group chat that threatened a teacher.

Law enforcement officials released some of those messages to McClatchy news group in an incident report Tuesday. The names of the students, who are all minors, were redacted.

“Are we really going to do it?” one student asked.

“Yes,” another responded.

According to the report, the officer was off-duty Sept. 30 at Sterling School’s Charles Townes Center Middle School in Greenville when someone showed her screenshots of an Instagram group chat that started around 10 p.m. the previous night.

Charles Townes Center is a school for “highly gifted students” admitted based in-part on aptitude and standardized test scores, the school’s website states.

The messages were reportedly “threatening in nature,” prompting the Greenville Police Department to arrest several students from the chat on charges of student threats — which the S.C. Legislature outlawed in 2018.

There were others in the chat who did not engage in the conversation, according to the report.

One eighth-grader with whom the reporting officer spoke said they thought “the students were joking and would not have any real intentions to harm anyone.”

That student also attributed another’s comments about “wanting to burn things” as “just (their) personality.”

“It appears as though the thread was originally created for the students to gather all of their information to form a plan to have the teacher fired or to express their concerns about (name redacted) to administration,” the report states.

But the conversation soon moved away from that.

Someone asked whether the students were planning an assassination, and another referenced Lois Duncan’s novel “Killing Mr. Griffin,” in which a group of high school students kidnap and accidentally kill their teacher.

At least three students mention owning a gun, including one who said they have a shotgun and a rifle. A fourth wrote that their brother had an AR15.

They also discouraged students in the chat from telling anyone about the messages.

“No snitches or your gay.”

“If you snitch death.”

“If they snitch I’ll beat their (expletive).”

The students later mention looting the teacher’s home, loosening her lug nuts so she “crashes and dies,” towing her — “My uncle owes me,” one student says — and crucifying her.

Police determined there was no intent to harm behind the messages, Beth Brotherton, spokesperson for Greenville County School District, said in a statement Oct. 2.

But the students have been suspended pending an investigation by the school, the report states.

They were reportedly released to their parents “in lieu of taking them to jail” and will be expected in family court for the charges.

The reporting officer also said she spoke with seven other students who were in the group chat but not charged about the severity of the situation.

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Hayley is a Real Time reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking news and trending stories in the Carolinas. She also created the Observer’s unofficial bird beat (est. 2015) with a summer full of ornithological-related content, including a story about Barred Owls in love.