2018-02-16 / Front Page

Mt. Ararat threats investigated

Times Record Staff


A day after a shooting that killed 17 people at a Florida high school, Topsham police and school officials investigated reported threats of violence at Mt. Ararat High School.

While an increased police presence was expected today, MTA Principal Donna Brunette said in a statement Thursday the administration doesn’t believe there is any credible threat of violence at the school.

“Today, administration received reports from students about unsafe language used by other students that made them feel unsafe,” Brunette stated in a notice on the school’s website. “Words used focused on violence at school. Follow-up interviews confirm a conversation between two boys about an online video game focused on school violence and other comments that suggest one might do something at our school to scare students.”

According to Brunette, the students involved are being disciplined “for creating a significant disturbance at school and language that suggests a threat.”

Topsham police are also conducting an investigation into the matter.

Brunette said officials also heard of a second report alleging that a student “made a statement that suggested a threat of violence tomorrow at school.” It is believed, however, that report stems from a rumor and has been investigated by Topsham police.

“Please know that any and all threats are investigated to the fullest extent to ensure the safety of the building and all occupants,” Brunette said.

According Maine School Administrative District 75 Superintendent Brad Smith, every school has an emergency plan and practices that plan.

“The news of yet another school shooting heightens our fears and anxiety about the safety of children everywhere, including here in MSAD No. 75,” Smith wrote in his own letter to district families and staff Thursday. “No school system can take the risk of assuming it could never happen here. In our school system, student safety and emergency response has been on of our highest priorities.”

Smith told The Times Record a great deal of inaccurate information about the threat had been put out on social media.

“And, as a parent, I totally understand the worry and angst that comes the day after a tragic school shooting in Florida and then social media posts about our high school,” he said. “I want parents and students to know that when a concern like this is reported, no matter the source, we are going to be spending our time and personnel following up. Our focus at the immediate time is investigating and trying to determine what is or isn’t accurate.”

The district will have school as usual today, Smith said, “and will see increased presence of law enforcement to help reassure people.”

In response to such traumatic events as a school shooting, Brunette said it is important to listen to children. She offered guidance from the National Association of School Psychologists and the American Psychological Association to help parents talk to children about these issues.

The NASP, for example, advises: “Parents and school personnel can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and security and talking with them about their fears.”’

It also suggests reassuring children they are safe, making time to talk while keeping explanations developmentally appropriate, limiting television viewing of these events and keeping a normal routine.


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