A school district in eastern Ohio added unarmed security guards to its buildings Tuesday amid increased attention over two high school football players who are facing rape charges.
Mike McVey, the superintendent of Steubenville City Schools, said a guard will remain outside each of the district's four buildings until further notice. McVey told The Associated Press in an interview that the move was made "to improve the safety of our students."
Two 16-year-old boys are set for trial next month in juvenile court in Steubenville, a city of about 18,000, on charges they raped a 16-year-old girl in August. Attorneys for defendants Ma'Lik Richmond and Trent Mays have denied the charges in court.
McVey said the decision to add guards to the school buildings came Monday, before the district was placed on lockdown Tuesday morning because of a possible threat. Teachers stopped instruction and locked their classroom doors for about 1 ½ hours while police determined the threat wasn't viable.
According to a police report, a student described seeing a Facebook post indicating a potential threat, but the post couldn't be retrieved. The post referenced people not charged in the rape case and directed them to come to a certain location, or "I am going to start killing people," the report said.
McVey said instruction resumed after the district was given the all-clear at 9:46 a.m. Some parents chose to take their children home for the remainder of the day, he said.
The district serves about 2,450 students. McVey wouldn't say how many students went home.
A Jefferson Security Services pickup truck periodically circled the high school Tuesday afternoon.
Social media and the Internet are playing a crucial role in the case. Hackers last week released a video, more than 12 minutes long, which purportedly shows one young man joking about the accuser following the alleged rape. The hackers who released the video allege more people were involved and should be held accountable. On Monday, an attorney said the young man regretted the comments, made when he was intoxicated.
An attorney for the girl's family has said online commentary about the case had made the situation more difficult.
McVey declined to comment on the heightened attention his school district has received. He also said he wasn't prepared to comment on the decision to have unarmed security at the school instead of armed guards.
The defendants, Richmond and Mays, are on house arrest and attend an alternative school during the day inside the county justice center across a busy highway from the downtown high school.
Former legal guardians of Richmond said Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show that they were surprised by the arrest and allegations. Richmond is staying with Jennifer and Greg Agresta as part of his house arrest.
"It's completely out of Ma'Lik's character," Greg Agresta said on the program. "That's not the type of person that he is."
The couple declined to say whether the charges are accurate and whether they believe Richmond was involved. They said they don't think a fair trial is possible in Steubenville.
The boys' attorneys say they might try to have the case moved and keep it closed to the public to protect potential witnesses who they say have been threatened and pressured not to testify.
Sanner reported from Columbus, Ohio.