Southmoreland middle, elementary schools locked down
On Thursday, the middle and elementary schools in the Southmoreland School District went into a “protective” lockdown mode in response to a threat of violence reportedly received about 7:30 a.m. The problem was that the threat was aimed at a school more than 500 miles away.
“We received information that one of our students had received a threat (over the Internet),” said John Molnar, superintendent of schools at Southmoreland. “We obviously went into protective mode. We locked down the elementary and middle schools and notified the authorities.
“As part of our lockdown (procedures), we do not allow the parents in or allow the students to leave.”
Molnar said Scottdale police were called. Police brought in three bomb-sniffing dogs through Westmoreland County, Mutual Aid and the Westmoreland County Sheriff's Department and swept the schools. The sweep included checking individual items such as purses and hoodies.
“As the morning proceeded, we were able to determine the threat came because of a Georgia gang fight,” said Molnar.
Scottdale police Chief Barry Pritts confirmed the information about the Georgia connection.
“We were able to link (the threat) to an incident that happened yesterday down there,” said Pritts, who added he got the call at 7:34 a.m. “We're now trying to determine exactly where it came from.”
By 10 a.m., the school day resumed, going on a two-hour delay schedule. Pritts said he was able to leave the school about 10:30 a.m.
“I take my hat off and extend my thanks to the faculty, staff, administration, and to the Scottdale Police Department. They all responded calmly and efficiently. I'd like to express my thanks to everyone, including the students themselves and the parents, who chose not to go into panic mode themselves,” Molnar said.
Pritts, too, commended the school staff.
“The school did an excellent job in how they handled it,” he said. “The principal, school officials and teachers — everything was excellent. I was very happy to see how they handled it. And the Westmoreland 911 center was very helpful in tracking things down. They went above and beyond.”
Molnar believes the incident occurred near Dallas, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. It is about 516 miles from Scottdale.
Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-626-3538.
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