2018-02-13 / Front Page

Incidents of Copycat Threats Addressed at Downsville and Roxbury Central Schools

By Rosie Cunningham

DELAWARE COUNTY - Potential copycat threats following the recent school shooting in Florida could become a reality. On Friday, two Delawre County schools, Roxbury and Downsville Central Schools became prime examples.

On Wednesday, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz allegedly opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle on students and teachers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 people and wounding 14.

According to a release, the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Downsville Central School as a result of a reported threat of possible future school violence. Police were advised of the incident by school staff after learning that a parent in the district made a social media post about the perceived threat on Feb. 15.

A 17 year old student was identified as the source of the perceived threat and it was determined by school staff and police that the comment was inappropriate but did not amount to a credible threat or intention by a student to engage in school violence.

Students, parents and community members are urged to immediately contact 911 and the appropriate school district administration to report any information regarding perceived threats of school violence, according to Delaware County Sheriff Craig DuMond. 

“Reporting threat information to social media is not a productive means to get any perceived threat immediately addressed. The best reporting mechanism is 911, If you see something, say something.  Moreover, students need to be strongly cautioned that making inappropriate comments regarding potential school violence may result in legal action being taken in addition to disciplinary action by the school,” DuMond said in response to the incident.

DuMond urges parents to not make offhanded comments in regards to threats.

“Even threats that are not deemed to be credible can result in criminal prosecution in addition to sanctions imposed by the school,” he said.  “If you see, hear or even perceive a threat immediately report it to 911 and the school administration.  Pay attention to your schools emergency procedures and plans regarding active shooter drills and emergency evacuations.”

New York City Department of Environmental Protection Police assisted the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office with the incident.

Downsville Central School and Superintendent John Evans released a statement later in the afternoon to parents, students and community members of Downsville.

“At approximately 7 a.m. today, Downsville Central School administration was informed of a Facebook post made by a parent of a DCS student last night. The content of the post was in regards to a statement that their child had heard in class the prior day by another student regarding school shooters. Law enforcement was notified of the post and the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department responded to school.

“The sheriff’s department conducted a thorough investigation of the situation and determined that the statement was not a credible threat and students were not in danger,” Evans said.

“Parents and students are encouraged to notify school administration and/or law enforcement immediately whenever they become aware of possible threats of violence,” he continued. “We take the safety and security of students and staff very seriously. Everyone plays a role in that. If you hear something, please say something.”

In a release by Roxbury Central School Superintendent Tom O’Brien, on the night of Feb. 14, at approximately 11 p.m., he was contacted by the New York State Police in regards to a student and alleged threats.

“I was in contact with police about information we received concerning an interaction that happened between some of our students and an unknown individual on an internet video game,” stated O’Brien. “At that time the NYS Police indicated it would be appropriate to open school in the morning based on the information they had, and that they would be present on campus to look into the matter further this morning. The students, with their parents present, were interviewed by the NYS Police and no credible, targeted threat towards our school has been uncovered. The information we have gathered will be used by law enforcement to continue looking into this matter. Please contact me directly if you have any questions. We appreciate the strong relationship we have with law enforcement and applaud the parents and students involved for coming forward.”

O’Brien continued and stated that changes would be made for the purpose of safety.

“In the wake of recent events nationally and concerns about increased safety and security, effective immediately the back doors of the building will remain locked until 7:30 a.m. every day,” stated O’Brien. “Students arriving before 7:30 a.m. will be required to enter through the front door. The back door will be monitored by a school employee upon opening at 7:30 a.m. and will remain monitored until it is locked again at 8 a.m. All visitors will be directed to the front door to sign in during this time. Also, please remember to ‘See Something/Say Something’ – report any unusual activity as soon as it is observed to administration.”

“The school shooting in Florida continues to reverberate across the country,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo in a statement. “Two schools in upstate New York, we had what appears to be ‘copycat’ threats made by students threatening violence and saying they would bring guns to schools. These two matters are under control. The schools involved were the Chautauqua Lake School District and the Randolph Academy in Cattaraugus County. Both students are in police custody. State police are on site, and the schools are functioning once again after a brief closure this morning.

 “While the emotion, facts and consequences of yet another brutal gun attack continue to be processed, we must take a firm stand against any ‘copycat’ actors. The state of New York has no tolerance for threats of violence in our school system. They will be handled immediately and aggressively. There are serious legal consequences for any person posing a threat whether or not they intend to actually execute upon that threat. A student should know there is nothing humorous about these situations and the consequences are most severe.

“While this morning’s incidents have been resolved, the school system and local police departments remain on full alert. Out of an abundance of caution, I am ordering the state police to increase its patrols around schools statewide.”

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