SANATOGA PA – An investigation into a bomb threat regarding Pottsgrove High School, allegedly made Monday (Oct. 5, 2015) by a student who attends there, is now complete and the juvenile involved will be charged with making terroristic threats, a first-degree misdemeanor, Lower Pottsgrove Police Chief Michael Foltz said in a press release.
The student has not been identified by authorities by name, although the identity is said to be widely known by classmates and others. Besides legal troubles, the student also faces school administrative actions, Foltz said Wednesday (Oct. 7).
The chief’s announcement caps at least three days of concern and angst among some high school parents and students, and was accompanied Wednesday by a police detail assigned to the Kauffman Road building. The public security display was intentionally requested by the district to help calm fears, Foltz said.
Many on social media claimed they believed the police presence was helpful and reassuring. However, district officials reported more than 190 of the high school’s roughly 1,000 students were declared absent Wednesday. Of those, a portion were excused for illness or other reasons.
According to Foltz, the investigation by Det. Sgt. Joseph Campbell revealed:
- The threat had been posted to a social media site. The website was not officially identified, but the threat “indicated the student had placed a bomb in the school. However, the threat was unspecific about time or location”;
- The threat was observed online “by a concerned student” who brought it to the attention of the school administration. “Within a short period of time of receiving the information, school officials and police identified the source of the threat and contacted the subject and parents;”
- The threat was not directly made to the school, the student who made the threat was not in school at the time it was issued, and was not in the school at the time it was discovered;
- Both the juvenile responsible for the threat and parents “were extremely cooperative with the investigation; and
- “It was determined that there was no imminent danger to students.” As of this time the department is “confident the matter is appropriately handled and no further credible threats exist.”
In reply to questions posed Wednesday on Facebook pages, the department acknowledged the threat was “a serious matter … Someone accused of making a terroristic threat is subject to penalties involving loss of freedoms.”
It also asked the public to avoid jumping to conclusions about the investigation or its outcome. “Under the U.S. Constitution, we are given many protections under due process,” the department added in a Facebook response. “If we rush to judgment and do not do a proper and complete investigation, any charges filed will be lost in court, thus empowering criminals who are then released back into society with no penalty for their actions.”
As for any district’s administrative sanctions against or actions involving the student, they are said to be governed by Pottsgrove policy 218.2, titled “Threat Assessment.” It was adopted Oct. 9, 2012, by the Board of School Directors, almost exactly three years before the day of the latest incident.
In it, “the board acknowledges the need for an immediate and effective response to a situation when a threat is brought to the attention of a District employee, including those reported by a student, parent/guardian, or staff member, and reported to an administrator.” It later states “the central question in a threat assessment inquiry or investigation is whether a student poses a risk, not whether the student has made a threat.”
A “threat assessment team” assigned to each building “determines what referral for support is necessary for the individual(s) who poses a risk and the individual(s) targeted.” Intervention(s) for a student who poses a risk “may include referrals to social services, psychiatric evaluation, and/or support systems that provide encouragement and hope, and reduce the likelihood that the student will engage in future threatening behavior. The parents/guardians and student must abide by the recommended interventions of the team.”
The team’s “results are not public, nor are (its) recommendations,” board President Justin Valentine confirmed Thursday morning in a Facebook comment.