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Security threat cleared at James Buchanan High School

'No items of interest' found

'No items of interest' found

December 05, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Less than half of James Buchanan High School students attended school Tuesday, the day targeted in a security threat found written in a bathroom last week.

While teenagers ate in a nearby cafeteria, school administrators and law enforcement held a press conference to announce that normal operations had resumed.

"There were no items of interest located in the building or on any student," said Terry DeWitt, an officer with the Mercersburg Police Department.

Nine trained dogs from as far away as Harrisburg, Pa., searched the building Monday evening, giving their handlers the opportunity to use the experience as additional training. Overnight guards then locked down the facility overnight.

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Police have a list of who used the boys bathroom where the threat was found written in black ink on a dark blue stall, DeWitt said.

Most bathrooms have been locked since two bomb threats were scribbled in them in April and September, said Rebecca E. Erb, superintendent of the Tuscarora (Pa.) School District.

"We do have our restrooms that are open monitored by an attendant with a sign-in, sign-out," said Rodney Benedick, high school principal.

DeWitt, who said an arrest will be forthcoming, said the perpetrator likely would be charged with felony terroristic threats in accordance with the Pennsylvania Crimes Code. He also said he'll consider federal charges because the threat involved school property.

"Once we make an arrest, we will also require restitution in repayment of wages for staff kept overnight," DeWitt said. Restitution also could be applied for certain police services, he said.

He would not disclose what the threat said.

"It was not specific to point out one act. ... The others in the past have all mentioned a bomb. This did not," DeWitt said.

Erb and Benedick confirmed that a separate threat against the school was found Thanksgiving weekend at Food Lion in Greencastle, Pa.

"Greencastle police are actively investigating that," DeWitt said.

Tuesday's absences will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they are valid, Erb said.

"We're going to excuse students who are at home and have parents concerned about their safety," she said.

"I'm totally in awe of how the school district and their staff came together with the police and agencies," DeWitt said. "We did it with very little disruption."

"I think our challenge is to have school maintained as a normal learning environment," Benedick said.

DeWitt said parents responded well to the heightened security, which included the confiscation of cell phones early this week and prohibition of student vehicles Tuesday. Students and staff passed through metal detectors in the morning.

"The kids were great, really cooperative, respectful. They were upset at whoever did it," DeWitt said.

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