Officials with Roanoke City Schools changed graduation plans Thursday after receiving information of threats of gang activity.

The graduation was initially supposed to be held on the football field but was changed to inside the gym. On the day of graduation, the school system announced only parents of graduates and siblings of graduates would be allowed inside. Even siblings had to be attendees of Roanoke City Schools, graduates or be verified by school officials.

“This decision was made out of an abundance of caution,” the school system said. “The safety of our students, faculty, and staff remains of paramount importance.”

The sudden changes startled Parents and teachers, but they felt safe after the Roanoke Police Department and the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office provided security at the graduation.

“We witnessed the epitome of ‘protect and serve’ this week,” a post from Handley High School read. “Thank you seems inadequate but if you knew the depth of our gratitude for the hedge of protection around our students and staff, it would mean so much. We also thank all the praying people that covered our school and its events this week. Between God and law enforcement, we were covered and blessed.”

Sources with the school system said they believe the gang threat has connections to a Sweet 16 birthday party in which four people were killed, and 32 were injured in Dadeville. At least one reported shooting in Roanoke this month was also linked to the Dadeville incident, but authorities have not released details.

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