FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - Threats have been made against students and Florence School District One officials who are in support of funding for school upgrades.
This comes one week before people will vote on the $198 million referendum on Feb. 26.
The referendum, if passed, would fund four new schools, security improvements and new athletic facilities for all 3 high schools.
The Students First organization, which supports the referendum, had planned to hold rallies all week leading up to election day. However, due to the threats, Superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley asked them to cancel the meeting set for Tuesday night.
"These threats to our students from bodily harm to hurt them in some way are unacceptable and quite frankly outrageous,” O’Malley said.
During the organization's rally Monday night, O'Malley revealed there were a few disruptive people adding that one person had to be removed.
The students targeted are volunteers for the Students First organization who have been helping to put up “Vote Yes” signs and speaking at informational rallies.
One Facebook post referencing students allegedly stealing “Vote No” posters said quote, “What they need to do is put more up and hide and watch someone beat their butts and let their love ones see them laying in the hospital with two broken arms and legs”.
Another one read, “It was the kids stealing our signs last night. It was on a MS13 Mexican gang members property. He said he would take care of them personally so we’re not going to report it”.
"It's not a good first experience that they need to be threatened or feel scared to be part of something that they live every day in the schools that they attend,” he said.
O’Malley said he has also received threatening calls from blocked numbers warning him not to speak at Tuesday night’s meeting. For the safety of his family and the students, he will no longer attend the rallies and requested students be pulled as well.
“I stand here torn because I usually don’t back down to these cowards and that’s what they are, but I feel that I have to represent my family who I brought down here to a great community, but also to my students and that I have to actually, sensibly think about what’s right for all of them,” O’Malley said.
While he doesn't think this represents the community as a whole, O’Malley admitted he's never experienced something like this as a superintendent and something has to be done. He said authorities are looking into the threats and those responsible.
“This community needs to rise up and make this people accountable because this is not the Florence I brought my family down here to be a part of,” O’Malley said.
Members of Students First still plan to hold three other informational rallies, but have agreed to remove students from participating.