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Wolfe: No tolerance for threats in district

February 29, 2012

Dr. Keith Wolfe

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Just days after a school shooting near Cleveland, Ohio, Monday, a threat via social media at Jeff Tech and the lockdown of a Bradford area middle school, the superintendent of the Punxsutawney Area School District says there are ramifications for such behavior.

“There are definite consequences from it,” Superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe said Wednesday. “So many times, someone could say, ‘We were just messing around,’ but you can’t do that. You can’t joke about something like that.”

Monday, T.J. Lane, 17, admitted taking a pistol and a knife to the 1,100-student Chardon High (Ohio) School and firing 10 shots at a group of students sitting at a cafeteria table, prosecutor David Joyce told The Associated Press.

Three students were killed, and two were wounded.

Joyce said Lane will probably be charged with three counts of aggravated murder and other offenses.

Tuesday, students at the Jefferson-DuBois AVTS (Jeff Tech) were locked down and eventually evacuated to C.G. Johnson Elementary School after a threat involving guns and explosives was made via a social media tool.

The 16-year-old suspect in that case faces charges of disorderly conduct, PSP-DuBois said Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, Floyd C. Fretz Middle School in Bradford was locked down after a student came to school and reported a rumor that another student had a weapon, according to The Associated Press.

The school was locked down, and a male student was questioned, but authorities determined the rumor was unfounded, and that the girl who initially reported it hadn’t actually heard the other student claim to have a weapon, the AP said.

Wolfe said depending on the severity of an incident regarding a weapon or a threat, a students could face suspension or expulsion. But after that, he said the district would cooperate with the police on further charges.

According to PSP-Punxsy, someone making just a generalized threat could face charges of terroristic threats, while a threat against an individual or a group could lead to other charges.

Police also said there are certain situations best handled within a school district’s administration. But when a threat rises to a certain level, state and local police automatically become involved.

The Punxsy district is among almost every district in the state that has a crisis team in place to handle emergency incidents such as these. Also, Wolfe said he has talked to PSP-Punxsy about holding a “table-top exercise,” during which state and local police, as well as EMS and fire agencies, sit around a table, examine scenarios and discuss which agency would perform which duties.

Wolfe said he would still like to hold the exercise, which he discussed with PSP-Punxsy Sgt. Thomas Chelgren some time before the Chardon incident.

He also talked about two exercises — one at the high school, one at an elementary school — held while he served as the high school principal in the Brookville Area School District.

The exercises, for example, saw state and local police, the sheriff’s department and a SWAT team executing an all-out drill, during which law enforcement was timed on finding individuals planted in the schools.

These exercises were held during a day when students were not at school, Wolfe said.

Responding to a threat takes times and disrupts the school day, but there is no way that any threat can be ignored.

“Absolutely, we have to take every single one as a credible threat or possible incident,” Wolfe said. “Even if someone else is reporting it, we have to take every one as credible.”

“We’re here to educate kids, and to make sure students and faculty and everyone else is safe,” Wolfe said. “Regardless of what you’re trying to do academically, if it’s not safe, it’s not going to work.”

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