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'It hits you in the pit of your stomach': Authorities explain investigation into 6th graders' plot for school shooting

The students planned to enter through the back door on the last day of school, shoot faculty and students, and then commit suicide, according to local authorities.

CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — Two 6th grade students in Cumberland County have been charged after authorities uncovered a plot for a shooting at their school last week.

An investigation into the plot began when the school resource officer at South Cumberland Elementary heard about a rumor of a possible "hit list" of students to be shot, a news release from the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office and Cumberland County Schools said Monday.

The newly formed Crossville/Cumberland County District Threat Assessment Task Force, a multi-jurisdictional team, was contacted and began to assist in the investigation.

“Our first and most important responsibility is to ensure the safety of our students and staff. It was determined that at no time during the investigation students or staff were believed to be in any immediate danger,” Director of Schools Janet Graham said in the release.

Investigators didn't find a hit list but did find the students had a hand-drawn map of the school and a plan to bring weapons and hide them in the locker room, the release said. 

The students planned to enter through the back door on the last day of school, shoot faculty and students, and then commit suicide, according to the release. 

The students had multiple conversations between themselves in the past two weeks discussing the plan, the sheriff's office said.

Both students were arrested on Friday, April 26 and taken to the Cumberland County Juvenile Detention Facility and were charged with Conspiracy to Commit Murder. One student was taken into custody at school and the other was taken into custody at home. 

There was a hearing Monday morning and a judge determined the students would remain in juvenile custody.

“We take any threat to students and school faculty very seriously and we will respond, investigate and take swift appropriate action to manage each threat,” Cumberland County Sheriff Casey Cox said in the release. 

The students' homes were searched and no weapons were found. Investigators said the parents were fully cooperating.

Parents of students at the school weren't immediately notified because the sheriff's office said there wasn't an immediate threat and they felt that if they notified other parents at that time, it would compromise the investigation. 

There is a school resource officer in every school in Cumberland County, according to the sheriff. Students should always speak up if they hear anything that may be concerning or a threat to the safety of anyone in the school.

The last day of school in Cumberland County is May 31. 

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