SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - More than 500 students were absent Friday from The Villages Charter Middle School. They were seemingly afraid to come to school after deputies reported breaking up a Columbine-style plot.
Parents were beside themselves following what deputies said was a mass-shooting plot foiled in the knick-of-time.
“You hear about it on the news about other schools, but not your own school,” said Wendy Vercillo, one parent.
She said her child is a classmate of one of the teenagers accused in the alleged school shooting plot.
“She used to speak to the one boy," Vercillo explained. "She said he was kind of 'dark.'”
"There will be an increased presence of Sumter County Sheriff’s Department Deputies on site and our administrative team will be very visible across campus," said The Villages Charter School Director of Education, Dr. Randy McDaniel.
There was a visible presence of deputies on campus Friday, as new details emerged in what investigators called a "disturbing plot." Deputies said a student told others to wear a white T-Shirt on Friday, so they wouldn’t get shot, but they say that was a ruse.
“Because they said blood showed up better on white T-Shirts," Sumter County Sheriff's Captain Chris Haworth explained.
By 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, deputies said that plan -- a week in the making -- began to unravel. The school’s resource officer received a text about a school shooting rumor. They say at 7:30 Wednesday morning, a 13-year-old’s book bag was searched and no weapons were found, bu that the teen spilled the beans about his accomplice. Both were behind bars Friday.
Captain Haworth explained, “No rumors of any copycats. The only rumors that we have are potential other children’s involvement in it. But our investigation shows no evidence of that being true”
Roughly 60 percent of the school's students were absent Friday. Still, some parents refused to live in fear.
Kathy Pennypacker, another parent, said, “Oh, I’m happy that nothing happened and that they got it taken care of.”
The school said Friday's absences will be excused. Deputies said those two teens who stand accused are facing charges of conspiracy to commit murder. They are presently in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice.