More cops covering anxious school

October 08, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

WILLIAMSPORT - The Washington County Sheriff's Department has increased its presence at Williamsport High School following the Sept. 23 discovery of a threatening message scribbled in a restroom and a bag containing 166 bullets that turned up in a locker a day later, Principal John Davidson said Thursday.

"Additional law enforcement personnel will be on site Monday and will remain involved until the investigation is complete," Davidson said in a letter he sent home to parents Thursday. He would not be more specific.

A letter was sent home to parents on Sept. 30 telling them about the incidents and attempting to prevent rumors or misinformation from spreading, Carol Mowen, spokeswoman for the Washington County Public Schools, said.


Thursday's letter was sent to update students and parents and to reassure them that school system and law enforcement personnel were doing everything possible to address the situation, she said.

The back of Davidson's letter suggested ways that parents could help their youngsters during stressful times. The list was sent at the suggestion of the school's citizen advisory committee and does not mean students at the school are having any problems, Davidson said.

Davidson said attendance at the school this week was higher than it had been in the weeks before the graffiti was found in the bathroom.

"That says something about their comfort level, in my opinion," Davidson said.

Davidson said he is urging the school's 896 students or anyone else with knowledge of the graffiti or bullets to tell school employees or the Sheriff's Department what they know.

Mowen said schools are more alert to potential security problems than they were five or 10 years ago.

"We take any and all situations such as these very seriously and any threats, whether intended as a joke or not, will be investigated," she said.

A janitor discovered threatening graffiti on a boys' restroom wall on the night of Sept. 23, Mowen has said. Mowen would not disclose what the message said, only that it caused concern.

On. Sept. 24, the day after the message was discovered, a bag of .22-caliber bullets was found in an unlocked student locker, Mowen said.

The investigation was continuing, and so far, "there is no known connection between these two incidents," Mowen said.

Sheriff's Department Sgt. Mark Knight has said a 17-year-old male student found the bag containing 166 bullets in his locker and informed the school's principal, which led to another police investigation.

After questioning the student, Knight said police don't think he was involved in either incident.

Knight could not be reached for comment Thursday.

List sent to parents

Washington County Public Schools officials sent copies of the list below to parents of Williamsport High School students on Thursday. The list accompanied a letter updating an investigation into the discovery of graffiti in a school restroom two weeks ago and, a day later, bullets in a locker.

The list is meant to help students and parents during "uncertain or stressful" times, according to the letter, which suggests parents review the list with their children.

· Send your son or daughter to school. Routine in their lives is very important during stressful times.

· Listen to questions your son or daughter may ask. Try to answer as best you can and be willing to admit you do not know all the answers.

· Be aware that children react to their parents and any other significant adult's actions. Be mindful of what you say in front of your children and how you express your emotions in their presence.

· Normal routines should be followed.

· Develop a home safety plan (knowing where your children are, how to get in touch with them, etc.). Prepare a plan if you do not have one.

· Let your school know if your son or daughter needs assistance. School counselors and other support staff are available to help.

· Be aware of how stress from situations can affect both you and your children. Stress affects us in many ways, such as: Feeling of agitation, difficulty sleeping, aggressive/acting out behaviors, overreaction to normal situations, or difficulty in concentrating.

· It is important that you assure your son or daughter while still being honest with him or her. For example, "We certainly don't expect anything to happen here in Washington County, but if it does, we will take care of you" rather than "We have nothing to worry about here."

· Be concrete and answer what your son or daughter is actually asking.

· Often what a child really wants to know is: "Will I be hurt?" or "Will my friend or family be hurt?"

· Children need to know that their parents and school officials are doing whatever is possible and necessary to keep them safe.

· Finally, take care of yourself. If you need to talk to someone, talk to another adult. If you have questions concerning your child's anxiety, call the school, and staff will try to help you.

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