Fort Myers News Press | By Kaitlin Greenockle | September 14, 2021
A testing coordinator at Harns Marsh Middle School who was filling in as an eighth-grade teacher Wednesday played an integral role in preventing a potential school shooting.
Laura Davis, who has been teaching in Florida for 24 years and with the Lee County School District for 15 years, was covering the Lehigh Acres classroom because of shortages because of COVID-19.
Tuesday, during a news conference at the middle school, Davis said about 20 minutes before the end of the class she saw a student walking toward his backpack and a few students leave their seats quickly.
It is against school rules for students to get their backpack during class, Davis said.
She told all students to take their seats and asked what was going on. She heard some students talking about school shootings and other kids laughing saying it was a joke.
A student near the front of the classroom also asked Davis if she had heard a rumor that there will be a school shooting.
Davis reported the incident to administration immediately and Lee County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation.
All staff undergoes training by law enforcement to help prepare them for similar and, no matter the threat, believable or not, they need to make a report, Davis said.
Deputies arrested two boys, 13 and 14, Thursday in connection to the incident. After mental health exams, they are facing charges of conspiracy to commit a mass shooting.
The News-Press isn’t naming the suspects because they are juveniles.
Deputies found a map of the school with markings indicating the school’s interior security cameras in one of the boys’ bag and a search of one of the boys’ homes turned up a gun and several knives, according to Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno.
Detectives with sheriff’s office’s Youth Services Criminal Investigations Division determined the teenagers took an interest in the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 where two seniors shot and killed 12 students and a teacher in Littleton, Colorado.
Marceno said the boys were learning how to construct pipe bombs and how to obtain firearms on the black market.
As Davis heard details from the sheriff’s press briefing, she said the hair stood up the back of her neck because she hadn’t through anyone was in danger.
“I’ve had a couple of sleepless nights after hearing of the investigation,” Davis said.
Harns Marsh Middle School Principal Alex Dworzanski said the sheriff’s office remained on campus Tuesday investigating.
Davis doesn’t consider herself a hero she said, “I was just doing my job.”
People’s lives are valuable, and she hopes the boys get the help that they need, Davis said.
On Thursday, the administration held a debriefing so that it could go over how administrators and teachers handled the situation and how they can improve safety procedures, Dworzanski said.
Max Schachter, a parent who lost his son during the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Tweeted at district Superintendent Kenneth Savage thanking Dworzanski for his attention to the safety and security of the students.