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WACS student’s threat draws officials’ attention

March 10, 2016
By Rebecca Cuthbert ( , Westfield Republican

A student threat made March 1 drew the attention of Westfield Academy and Central School officials and village police the next day, as flashing lights and sharp-edged worry cut through what should have been a typical school day.

Superintendent David Davison responded to queries about the incident, saying, "There was an increased law enforcement presence on our campus (March 2) in response to a remark made by a student on Tuesday. The Westfield Police Department conducted and completed an investigation determining that there was no credible threat. School district officials and law enforcement agencies take all threats to the safety and welfare of our students and campus seriously."

Westfield Mayor Michael VandeVelde stated that there was, indeed, no physical threat to staff or students March 2.

"I've been in conversation with the chief of police (Robert Genthner) today, and I can confirm that no, there was never an actual weapon at the school," he said.

But whether the threat was real or not, some parents chose to pick their children up from school and bring them home, rather than have to wonder about their safety. This may have been a reaction to rumors that allegedly made their rounds on Facebook, causing what officials implied was unnecessary panic.

"Parents, of course, always have the option of signing their children out of school," said Board of Education President Steve Cockram, who then echoed the mayor and police chief in saying that there was no real danger for students.

VandeVelde said that the threat was reportedly made by a troubled youth who acted regrettably when he was very upset. The police have finished their investigation, but now school officials will have to decide what their next course of action will be - whether it's discipline for the young man, counseling, or both.

After unexpected events like this happen, Cockram explained, the school board will meet with the superintendent to review the situation and how it was handled. At that time, together, they will decide if any changes should be made to emergency procedures and policies.

"We will review how it all played out, but that will be a discussion for executive session," he said. "We have to protect the school and our students, but we also must follow (privacy policies) regarding the student who made the threat."

In late January, representatives from the Westfield Teachers Association brought safety concerns to the board; however, Cockram said, those concerns were about an isolated incident that was addressed by administration, and in no way do those concerns connect with Wednesday's events.

"The Westfield teachers never had blanket concerns about safety at the school," he stated.

Davison said that as a precaution only, police would remain on campus in the coming days. He also thanked the community for their cooperation.



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