Students and families had quite the scare recently when John Lewis Childs Elementary School in Floral Park was evacuated after a threatening note was found inside the school on Monday, Dec. 13. Another threat was made against the school via text messages that were allegedly made six months ago. The texts started circulating among students on Sunday, Dec. 12.
“…A note was found at John Lewis Childs School that contained a potential threat to our building,” Dr. Kathleen Sottile, Superintendent of Schools, Floral Park-Bellerose School District, said in a statement on Dec. 13. “Once this note was found, all protocols for student and staff safety were followed, with police called and students evacuated. The police have concluded their search of the building and deemed the threat non-credible. At this time, student safety has been secured and all are returning to their classrooms with dismissal to proceed as normal. All students who were out of the building during lunch were still able to receive their lunch. Although our students were at no time in danger, threats of this nature are taken seriously and proper disciplinary action and police action will be taken against those who caused the disruption.”
At a recent board of education meeting, parents addressed the board about the incidents. One parent in particular, Geraldine Grant, said the email that she received from the school district lacked transparency.
“I did not send my children to school because I did not feel it was safe based on what I was hearing from multiple sources,” Grant said. “I feel that more information should have been provided to the parents such as what the threat was, if the student was in the school, if the parent who reported it had concern after the amount of time that this text message had initially been sent. It’s six months ago this child said it and it’s concerning that they reported it now. I’d like to know if this person is in the school with my child.”
Parent Yasmine Falk said parents should know the protocol of what happens with the student who made the threat.
“Are they allowed to work with a counselor, are they allowed back at all, do they have some sort of psychological assessment, we don’t know how the threats were deemed credible or not,” Falk asked. “Our family doesn’t particularly feel comfortable sending our kids back to school at this moment.”
Sottile, who was also at the board of education meeting, told parents that once the investigation is turned over to the Floral Park Police Department, it becomes a police investigation and the school takes directive from them.
Floral Park Police Commissioner Stephen McCallister commented, “In Sunday’s incident, we advised Dr. Sottile and Principal Fazio that it [the text messages] was not a credible threat and that’s why school was in session [on Monday]. We were notified again in a separate incident that an index card with scribbled handwriting in pencil talked about shooting up a classroom and a possible bomb in the library. Five of our police officers showed up and did a building search to determine if there were any unusual or suspicious devices. There were none. The building was evacuated and followed the protocols of the school, which we support fully.”
McCallister said that some of the plans cannot be shared because if those plans were made public it would arm people with information that can put students and faculty at risk.
“I’m sorry that may sound secretive, but we do not want to share information that would defeat what we’re trying to do to protect you, your children, teachers and administrators,” he said.