Wake County Schools

Parents upset over not being told of Panther Creek High threats

Posted October 14, 2015

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— When school and law enforcement officials became aware of reports of threats made toward five students at Panther Creek High School in Cary, they informed only those students and their parents, leaving many families in the dark about an alleged hit list.

Kenneth Tyler Halker, 17, of 1805 Lawson Lane in Apex, was charged Oct. 8 with communicating threats and simple assault.

Three days earlier, he was suspended from school after allegedly assaulting a girl in the school cafeteria, and police said he then sent threatening text messages to another student and posted on Twitter that he planned to return to school "with his 45 and fill bodies with bullets." Halker also uploaded photos showing two AR-15 assault rifles surrounded by piles of ammunition, according to an application for a warrant to search his cellphone.

Halker's father said Tuesday that his son had been attacked at school by five students, that he never intended to hurt anyone and that the photos linked to him on social media were not from his account.

"I wish the principal, Dr. (Camille) Hedrick, would have let us know what was going on. I understand this had to do with the boy and five others, but if he would have acted on his threat, a lot of innocent people could have been hurt or killed," Amber Royce Krahwinkel posted on the WRAL News Facebook page.

"I'm beyond upset that we parents have to find out on social media. I will need an explanation. My son is a freshman there," Dora Maria Boesch posted.

Wake County Public Schools System officials said that they didn't consider the case to be a campus-wide threat, so they notified only those who appeared to be in danger.

"Last week, the principal responded immediately and appropriately to the situation at Panther Creek High School. She communicated directly with the parents and students involved. At no time were other students at risk," district spokeswoman Heather Lawing said in a statement.

"When we receive a threat, if you will, a serious threat like that, we have to look at the big picture. We take every precaution," said Lt. Tracey Barker, who oversees 10 school resource officers for the Cary Police Department.

School resource officers want to be mentors and try to help students, not arrest them, Barker said. The majority of issues with students are handled internally, with counselors, by the school.

"It is a tough call, and you have to take each case on an individual basis," he said. "If it's something that is dealing with the entire school, then of course we work very closely with the school administration to bring it to a good conclusion."

Filing criminal charges against a student is a last resort, Barker said, adding that officers had no choice in Halker's case.

"There are some cases where we have to do our job. You don't have a choice in the matter because we have to follow the law," he said. "We try to seek out other avenues to help them so we may not have to go that route."

2 Comments

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  • Laura Collins Oct 15, 2015
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    Why wasn't he charged with assault and battery over hitting the girl? And I though there were stiffer penalties for communicating a threat against a school? How is he suspended only and going back on Monday?

  • Crystal Potter Oct 14, 2015
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    I think they did the right thing. No reason to cause mass hysteria for a situation that is already being handled.