The student was charged with making terroristic threats after he told a fellow student that he was going to come to school and harm a teacher.
Springfield Township High School families were rattled last week by a series of events involving specific threats of violence by students, one of which prompted the arrest of a student who now faces possible expulsion.
The student who was arrested was charged with making terroristic threats after he told a fellow student that he was going to come to school and harm a teacher, according to School Superintendent MaryJo Yannacone. The student said he was interested in being famous and that coming to school with a gun would make him famous. He was also searching the Internet on his computer about how to kill a teacher, she said.
“We had a male student who talked to a classmate about threatening a teacher in a classroom conversation. That student came forward the next day and reported it to a counselor. It was investigated by our administrative team and the police department and they charged him with making terroristic threats,” said Yannacone. “I’m very proud of our high school administrative team and safety officer Stephen Chinta, and thrilled that the student did as they were supposed to do, which is to report to a school counselor.”
In a subsequent letter to parents, Yanncone said: “While this type of incident is of grave concern to administration, staff and students, it is important to note that at no time were any staff and students in danger. Any student who ever has a concern should see an adult and report the information.”
Two phone calls to the Springfield Township Police were not returned as of press time. On the department’s Facebook page, however, officers has this statement:
“This morning, STPD officers responded to the Springfield Township High School for a threat of a school shooting. Students reported to staff that yesterday, an adult male student of the school made indirect threats about how he’d accomplish a school shooting and used another child’s laptop to search “how to kill a teacher.” The suspect was taken into custody and awaits arraignment on a charge of Terroristic threats. There is no imminent threat to any schools in Springfield Township at this time.”
The arrest came in the wake of another upsetting incident not related directly to Springfield Township, but which was circulated and discussed throughout the tri-county area. In that incident, a young man circulated an image of himself on the social media platform Snapchat with words pasted across his face that expressed a desire to commit a school shooting.
“This image is in no way associated with Springfield Township,” said Yannacone, who added that it had nonetheless been upsetting to local parents.
Some parents, rattled by the possibility of violence at their school so soon after the recent shooting in Michigan in which a student killed four students, opted to keep their children home for the day. According to Yannacone, high school attendance was down 20 percent on Friday.
“Our attendance was 80 percent at the high school on Friday and 90 to 92 percent at K-8. We have students quarantined right now and some traveling so I couldn’t tell you how many were home for fear of security,” Yannacone said.
Yannacone sent three separate letters via email to district parents to update them on the circumstances.
“I recognize that the last 36 hours have been challenging for many of you, regardless of where your child attends school. Springfield is a small, tight-knit community, and I recognize that you are all committed to contributing to a community that is vibrant, supportive, and safe” she wrote. “Since March 2020, we have all worked and lived under mental, emotional, and physical stressors, and all of us are understandably impacted in ways large and small. So when a further challenge such as a school threat occurs, it is not surprising that we feel overcome and fearful.”
“Every time there is a school shooting it gives me pause,” said Yannacone, noting that if the student were expelled by the district, by law, the district must find alternative schooling for him.
While some worried parents are wondering whether the time has come to institute additional security screening such as backpack searches, Yannacone said it’s important not to overreact. “We follow training provided to us from state and federal agencies and they have not indicated that back pack searchers are warranted at this time,” she said.
“We don’t want to overcorrect and have students feel uncomfortable in a place that should be welcoming,” said Yannacone. “Our discipline philosophy is restorative. through the process and to protect them and we believe in restorative justice in our discipline practices as they move through high school.
In a third communication to parents, Yannacone noted the attendance rates at schools on Friday were down.
“For those families and students who hesitated to come to school today, we hope that you will rejoin us on Monday, secure in the knowledge that as a school community we are committed to doing everything possible to maintain a safe and positive school environment.”