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Threats prompt increase in security at Lake County schools

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - Lake County deputies watched every door at every school after dozens of vague rumors of violence sparked conversations online before Friday classes.

WFTV learned school officials investigated rumors and threats at every high school in the county and almost every middle school.

"It's really been a busy week, a lot of rumors, a lot of hearsay being posted on Facebook," said Lt. John Herrell of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

At Lake Minneola High School, seven deputies kept a watchful eye in response to rumors of violence.

WFTV was at the Lake Minneola campus Monday when officials added patrols after an online rumor brought fears that someone was going to bring a gun to school.

Across the county at Mount Dora High School, someone wrote, "12/21/12 kill day," on the sidewalk.

On Thursday, a 16-year-old student at Mount Dora High School was accused of taking a BB gun to school in his vehicle, which may have sparked more rumors that a threat was credible.

WFTV checked attendance records and found nearly 30 percent of students were absent from school on Friday, which is about 20 percent more than normal.

"It's the tracking part that gets really difficult," said Lake County School District spokesman Chris Patton. "People repost them and they 'like' them and it appears on their page, and it's really hard to find the origination of the rumor."

So far, four juveniles have been arrested. Sheriff's deputies said they're vowing to investigate every threat and punish those responsible.

"This is neither the time nor the subject to make jokes, so if the kids want attention, they're not going to have to try very hard to get ours," said Herrell.