The fallout of 11 MC bomb threats

By on June 15, 2016

Rescheduled graduation ‘the right thing’

Manheim Central School District had its own “annus horribilis” this school year. Of the 27 weapon or bomb threats at county schools in the 2015-16 school year, 11 were at Manheim Central. The last threat on Thursday, June 9, resulted in the postponement of graduation.

Graduation was held the following day, June 10, and the venue was changed from LCBC church in Rapho Township to Elden Retew stadium. It was the first time in 15 years that graduation had been held at the football stadium where Manheim Central Barons football fans have cheered their team onto numerous victories.

“It was a good night — the weather was great,” said Anne Phillips, the mother of graduating senior and Homecoming Queen Chloe Phillips. “I heard a lot of parents who were alumni reminiscing about their own graduation ceremony at the stadium.”

She pointed out that she herself is not a Manheim Central graduate.

 

Prior to Manheim Central High School’s rescheduled graduation, at Rettew Stadium on June 10, canine and human Manheim Borough Police officers secured the location.  (Photos by Alan Johnson)

Prior to Manheim Central High School’s rescheduled graduation, at Rettew Stadium on June 10, canine and human Manheim Borough Police officers secured the location. (Photos by Alan Johnson)

 

In a phone interview on June 13, Manheim Borough Police Chief Joseph Stauffer said that during Friday night’s graduation ceremony, the department “got a lot of feedback that we did the right thing by postponing graduation.”

Earlier on June 10, Rapho Township, the municipality where LCBC is located, issued a press release on the threat that postponed graduation. Rapho is also served by Manheim Borough Police Department.

The press release indicated that the township stands with the police force led by Stauffer and the township’s regional partners (Manheim Central School District, Manheim Borough and Penn Township) to support not only the immediate management of the immediate situation involving the graduation ceremony, but also the ongoing investigation.

In the press release, Lowell Fry, chair of Rapho’s supervisors, said that moving forward, the municipal partners must take a leadership role in coordination with the school district to address not only security, but the welfare of the community as well.

 

A Manheim Borough Police officer redirects a parent away from LCBC on June 9.

A Manheim Borough Police officer redirects a parent away from LCBC on June 9.

 

“As municipalities, we want to encourage our churches, religious organizations, youth sports teams, and families to recognize that now is the time to talk to the young people of our community about these issues,” Fry wrote. “We have to convey to our kids that this behavior is unacceptable and that our community has many people willing and able to discuss the challenges that face our youth that are more beneficial. The Township offers our resources to find ways to get this message out now.”

Stauffer explained that officers are trained on how to respond and investigate this type of incident {weapons or bomb threats}.

“Post-Columbine, law enforcement’s attitude toward even jokes about threats has changed,” he explained. “We take everything seriously until we determine that it’s not a serious threat.”

He said that on April 1 district administrators and the police department held individual assemblies with each high school grade.

“It was apparent to us that because there were so many incidents {threats} that students were not prepared for the consequences,” Stauffer said. “District administrators explained consequences students who make threats face on the administrative level, while we explained the consequences they can face with regard to the criminal justice system.”

 

As a student approaches, dressed for the ceremony, officers of the Manheim Borough Police Department work on securing LCBC after a mass shooting threat on Graduation day.

As a student approaches, dressed for the ceremony, officers of the Manheim Borough Police Department work on securing LCBC after a mass shooting threat on Graduation day.

 

In a message posted on the school district’s website, Superintendent Norman Hatten wrote that student safety is the district’s highest priority. He indicated that an after-action review is conducted after each threat to determine what was done right, what was done wrong, what can be improved, and what additional measures could be put in place to prevent further incidents.

In a phone interview on June 13, Assistant Superintendent Peter Aiken said that on June 9 the district made the right decision about graduation. However next school year the district will be focusing on communication and establishing and enforcing rules and policies with regard to weapons or bomb threats.

“We want to make sure the kids understand ramifications of their actions,” Aiken said. “We took a lot of reactive measures this year. Next year we want to be proactive.”

Stauffer said that the department will work with the district to develop those proactive measures.

Aiken stressed that 11 bomb threats is unacceptable.

“That’s not the type of culture we have here,” he said. “It doesn’t represent our kids; the students who were involved in the bomb threats are such a small percentage of our school population, but unfortunately all of our kids get painted with the same brush.”

Going forward, Aiken said that the district’s goal is to promote a safe learning environment and to engage all students in learning.

“We want them to be so involved in learning that they don’t have time to think about other behavior,” he said.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

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