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Valley News Dispatch

'Nothing is off the table' for Apollo-Ridge security measures

| Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 11:45 a.m.

Apollo-Ridge School District officials are happy with how a social media threat incident was handled this month but say “nothing is off the table” when it comes to improving school security.

On March 4, when students reported threats toward two Apollo-Ridge students on social media, Superintendent Matthew Curci, in Columbus, Ohio, at the time, said he was notified at 12:46 p.m. and messages concerning the threats were distributed to the public within four minutes.

“I had six officers on the case right off the bat,” Kiski Township police Chief Jerrod Thompson said. “We had to first determine that the victims were Apollo-Ridge students. I contacted the FBI field office, and they put an analyst on the case, who got on top of the situation very quickly.”

On March 6, police arrested a 12-year-old boy from Vandergrift.

His case will be handled by Westmoreland County authorities, even though the threat was made against Armstrong County residents.

“The person arrested has no ties to the Apollo-Ridge School District,” Thompson said. “He will be charged with making terroristic threats and harassment by communication.”

Still, parents and school board members have questioned district officials on plans to further secure district buildings and protect students and staff.

Curci has discussed the incident and future security provisions with other school officials and community members.

“Nothing's off the table,” Curci said. “We're looking at metal detectors and wanding (handheld metal detectors).”

Ironically, the day schools were closed because of the threat is the same day an assembly on social media safety by Phillip Little of the state Attorney General's Office had been scheduled.

That assembly has been rescheduled for 1:40 p.m. Friday.

School officials are considering videotaping assemblies and distributing them to parents who can't attend.

Police and school officials praised the students who came forward to report the threat.

“We're always telling them, if you see something, say something,” Kiski Township police Officer Rich Stevens said. “They know I'm available all the time.”

School and police officials said parents should be monitoring their children's social media contacts and habits.

“We'd also tell the parents, if they see something, say something,” said school board member Dan Obriot.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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