Inside L-S: L-S overcomes threats

In September, Lampeter-Strasburg High School received a bomb threat. Over the subsequent weekend, someone threatened to shoot students at school, prompting an AlertNOW message, and widespread concern throughout the L-S community.

In the message, Dr. Kevin Peart, superintendent of L-S, stated: “West Lampeter Township Police notified the District this afternoon that an anonymous person texted a threat that included, quote ‘shooting some kids,’ end quote. The threat referenced the ongoing investigation regarding the high school bomb threat last week. The threat was again communicated through the Lancaster Crime Stopper text tip line. Police will once again have a strong presence on campus Monday morning, as school will be open and operate as scheduled. As a precautionary measure, students should be prepared to have their belongings searched prior to entering school buildings tomorrow.

That next day, on September 14, a formidable police presence from the West Lampeter Township police department manifested itself on campus, with several unmarked cars and undercover officers on the scene as well. A large number of parents drove their children to school, and students lined up outside of two entrances on a chilly morning to have their bags searched before entering school. A methodical process concluded around 30 minutes into the regular school day, and classes began at 8:00 AM. 
There was a police presence outside school all week
“This sucks,” commented Zach Vinette, a freshman, upon entering school after his bags were searched.

Some had reservations about coming to school the next day.

Julie Kirchner -- the mother of senior Jacky and freshman Josh -- had little anxiety about sending her children to school, but left the ultimate decision up to them.

“If my children had seemed extremely stressed out and scared, then I would have let my children stay home from school,” she said. “I feel you can't live your life in fear of other people's threats. My gut says my kids are gonna be safe, but others say it's not worth the risk.

Jacky agreed, and went to school.

“Technically, a school shooting could happen any day, announced or not. There's always a risk being away from the safety and comfort of home,” she told the night of the threat. “I know that as a student, my personal well-being is in the best interest of my school, so I trust whatever decisions they make regarding the issue.”

Josh came to school as well, and cited a cross-country meet that afternoon as a primary motivating factor; students with athletic activities in the afternoon had to be at school that day in order to participate.

“If I felt like I was gonna [sic] get shot ... I wouldn't go to school,” Josh said. “But I have [a] meet … so I feel obligated to attend. If I didn't feel that pressure, I would be okay with staying home.”

Some did have anxiety than an incident would occur.

Since when did wanting to learn come with a price of risking getting shot and having a bomb go off?” junior Lea Butcher bemoaned on Facebook the night of the threat.

Butcher came to school. Lilly Murr did not.

My mom wouldn't let me go. She was so worked up about my safety, since I'm an only child. She just couldn't stop thinking about what would happen if it wasn't just a joke. She didn't want to take that chance,” Murr said.

Ultimately, that Monday, anecdotal evidence suggests that most classes had around or slightly above a 50% attendance rate, implying that somewhere between 450 and 500 students were absent. 

Additional precautions occurred during the school day Monday including students not being permitted to eat lunch outside, and physical education classes remaining indoors. However, a regularly scheduled golf match hosted by L-S at Meadia Heights did occur.

The police presence, although it waned in visible size, remained consistent throughout the remainder of the week. 

As students gradually returned to school over the subsequent days, bag searches continued for the remainder of the week. 

Student reaction to the bag searches seemed mostly -- although not exclusively -- positive.

“Knowing that nothing bad could get into our school made me feel a lot safer,” says Delaney McCormick, a freshman.

Junior Kayla Pugliese concurs: “It was a process that had to be done to keep everyone safe … but they did cut into class time a decent amount.”

Classes did not start until 8:00 AM each morning, a total loss of nearly two hours of instructional time.
Dr. Kevin Peart, Superintendent of L-S

Ultimately, the school returned to relative normalcy by the subsequent week, and on September 23, LNP reported that a teen was charged in connection with threats made not only at L-S, but at several other schools across the county.

Dr. Peart issued a statement upon that announcement: “The Board, students and employees of the Lampeter-Strasburg School District are thankful that the recent threats that impacted our schools and community alike have been solved. We would like to extend our gratitude to the local law enforcement agencies that provided a consistent presence to ensure the safety of our students and staff.

Later, Brian Wiczkowski, Chief of West Lampeter Police, released a video in which he thanked the community for its support, and commended his officers and police in East Lampeter Township for excellent teamwork that led to an arrest:

Thank you
Thank you Lampeter-Strasburg Community for your support! We, the West Lampeter Township Police Department, are honored to serve you!
Posted by West Lampeter Township Police on Friday, September 25, 2015

At L-S, all is back to normal. 

"It is nice to return to classes as usual," adds Principal Eric Spencer. "It is a credit to our wonderful students and our professional staff here at the Lampeter-Strasburg High School."

Editor's Note: This is the second installment of our November Inside L-S series, "Safety and Security". to read the remainder of the series, please visit our Inside L-S page.

--Benjamin Pontz, Editor-In-Chief

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