Student in clown mask ‘goofing off’ hits nerve in local community

A student wearing a clown mask in downtown South Hill around noon on Wednesday hit a nerve among local residents.

South Hill Police Chief Stuart Bowen said the student at the Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center was “goofing off” with the clown mask when officers approached him and told him to stop.

“He wasn’t dressed up as a clown,” Bowen said. “It was just a kid in a mask.”

The incident and accounts of it quickly made their way to social media.

With parents, children and others already on edge due to the recent phenomenon of reports claiming people dressed as clowns are roaming in communities in mid-Atlantic states with bad intentions for children, Bowen called the incident “a good teaching opportunity for parents.”

“It’s a good opportunity to remind kids, don’t interact with strangers, whether they’re dressed like a clown or not, and if you see anything strange, find an adult and report it,” Bowen said.

The reports of people dressed as clowns trying to lure children into the woods with candy or money, among other contemptible activities, are centered mainly in South Carolina, where the first reported instance took place, but have also occurred in North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia, including the town of Victoria in Lunenburg County. According to the Kenbridge-Victoria Dispatch, Victoria Police Chief H.K. Phillips said the department has investigated a pair of clown sightings during the last two weeks and was even given the description of a car someone dressed as a clown was said to be driving.

Phillips told the Kenbridge-Victoria Dispatch nobody dressed as a clown or the car was ever located, and he suspected the reports were due to “kids being kids, playing into the media reports.”

Bowen offered a similar assessment, blaming the phenomenon on “media dramatization” and kids repeating what they hear in the media and read on social media. He said in actuality, there are currently no recent instances of children being abducted by people dressed as clowns.

Nevertheless, Bowen acknowledged the students had plenty of questions about clowns during his Lunch Buddies visit to South Hill Elementary School last Thursday, and one parent has also called him to ask about the phenomenon.

“It’s a good opportunity to remind your kids, don’t interact with strangers, and if you see something, say something,” Bowen said.