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Threat leads to heightened security at James Buchanan High

December 04, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - All students and staff of James Buchanan High School were searched on their arrival to the building Monday morning, with heightened security in place due to what school officials called "an anonymous and somewhat obscure security threat."

Letters distributed at the end of last week and posted on the Tuscarora School District's Web site outlined security measures, including the confiscation of all cell phones, backpacks and book bags Monday and today. Those items will be returned Wednesday.

"We didn't have too many protests. Some of the students were apprehensive about giving up their cell phones," said Sgt. Bill Sheppard of the Mercersburg Police Department.

One student refused to turn over his cell phone and was disciplined, district Superintendent Rebecca Erb said.

Today, searches will continue and students are prohibited from driving to school.

Approximately 1,000 people passed through metal detectors like the ones used in courthouses Monday, Erb said.

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Monday "ran fairly smooth. Everyone was cooperative and understood," Sheppard said.

Threats at the high school were reported in April and September. The latest was discovered Thursday in a boys bathroom, according to school officials.

Every bathroom except that one was locked since the previous threat, Erb said.

"There is a monitor at the restroom," she said.

Erb said the district believes the messages from 2007 have had different creators, who don't necessarily socialize in a group.

"We have several people in mind, but at this point, it's an ongoing investigation," Sheppard said.

The message "depicted a specific day and time, however it did not depict a specific act," Mercersburg police wrote in a news release.

Monday's after-school events were moved or canceled. The regularly scheduled school board meeting was moved to James Buchanan Middle School.

Pennsylvania State Police were searching the building with dogs at 7 p.m. Monday. The building was to be locked down with a guard posted overnight.

"When the high school principal contacted the borough police, they were the ones that were really proactive in working with us, the Franklin County Sheriff's Department and the state police," Erb said.

Erb said the district received very few phone calls from parents concerning the restrictions.

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