Parents decry board’s response to school threat; gun brought on property

Loyalsock Township School District parents upset with how they feel the district responded to two separate incidents at Donald E. Schick Elementary School, fielded their frustrations during a school board meeting Wednesday night.

The reactions came after two emergencies caused the school to alert state police last week. An 81-year-old retired college professor was arrested on Oct. 5 after leaving a message on a school phone that he would allegedly “blow up the building with dynamite.”

The next day an employee of the elementary school brought a gun to the property for “his own personal protection” and it was “recovered without incident by the school police officers,” according to Superintendent Gerald McLaughlin in a statement to the school’s parents.

“My son has not been to the school since then,” Jenna Sebring, a parent, said during the board meeting. “We hear this major threat and we want to know why,” she added seeking more information about the incident.”

Some parents questioned the board as to why their children had stayed in the building during the threatening phone call to which both McLaughlin and the school’s police officer Mike Knight answered.

“Not only did they send three police cars,” McLaughlin said, “they sent police cars to the individual’s house.”

“We had a very strong law enforcement presence,” Knight said. “We go down through all the protocols.”

The largest complaint involved communication. Many parents had not seen any emails from the district and others say they were given the wrong information.

“I was told it was just a drill,” Sebring said after she had called the elementary school. “There should have been an email, open letter or townhall meeting.”

Knight admitted that communication between parties could have been better.

“I don’t think we communicated as well as we should have and I acknowledge that,” Knight said.

McLaughlin noted that the board will be looking at other methods of contacting parents during emergencies, but that some may not have received phone calls sent out during both incidents because of human error.

“We are looking at other software systems that would be specific to emergencies,” McLaughlin said. “We use the same system for both general and emergency. Some parents had blocked our parental link systems.

McLaughlin also added that if parents had not updated their phone numbers, they may not have received the messages.

The employee who brought the gun to school was honest about his bringing the weapon when questioned, according to McLaughlin, but he currently is suspended without pay until further notice. No charges have filed at this time. The employee’s identity was not provided.

“The safety and security at all of our schools is our No. 1 priority,” McLaughlin said. “We do take every threat seriously. When threats were made we had police in five minutes.”