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Weapon at school

Published November 01. 2011 05:01PM

Parents raised questions and concerns regarding the weapons violation that occurred two weeks ago at the L.B. Morris Elementary school, at the Jim Thorpe school board meeting Monday evening.

It had been reported that a student, who was later expelled, brought a weapon into the school. School officials were notified of the possible weapons violation on the evening of Oct. 19.

Two days later on Thursday, Oct. 20 the schools were put on a "non-intruder" lockdown, where students continued with classes but could not leave the room. No weapons were found during the lockdown.

The situation was turned over to the Jim Thorpe Police Department for investigation. The police finished their report by Oct. 22. They concluded that a student had brought a weapon into the L.B. Morris on Oct. 18.

Superintendent Barbara Conway stated that some students knew of the situation and didn't report it to school officials. The students also told their parents, but the parents didn't report it.

"The first we heard of anything was Wednesday evening. That's a matter of great concern to us," stated Conway.

"I'm not trying to put blame on anyone, but it's a simple fact," she added.

Conway stated that she is concerned that there are programs (such as School Wide Positive Behavior, Project Alert, Instructional Support Teams) currently in place at the schools and students didn't report the incident and only one parent said something later.

John Marchione, substitute teacher in the district, said he spoke with his class about the importance of reporting harmful incidents, such as weapons violations to the school. Board member, Dennis McGinley, agreed with Marchione that teachers could talk with students about safety and reporting harmful acts.

Parents asked questions about how the situation was handled and how it will continue to be handled.

"We sent home a general letter because the investigation was very far from complete at that point in time," said Conway.

"The other thing we have to be sensitive to, and I will say I contacted our solicitor (attorney Gregory Mousseau), was the fact that we're dealing with juveniles," she added.

Conway stated that because the police department was conducting an investigation, the district did not want to send only partial information home to parents.

Questions were raised about the student's motives for bringing in a weapon. Some parents heard it was in response to bullying and they wanted to know how that was being handled.

"You are making some assumptions that may not be correct," said Mousseau.

"We're certainly not going to say that we know everything. We certainly know a lot more than we're legally allowed to let you know," he added.

"Don't assume for one moment that what you're thinking is correct," said Mousseau. "Not that you're wrong, but don't think it's right until you hear both sides of the story.

"We're a lot deeper into it than people would ever imagine. We certainly don't want to prejudice what law enforcement are doing. We are taking appropriate steps tonight as far as we can go," he added.

Mousseau said that rumors have been going around and that's just what they are rumors.

School officials have met with representatives of the Behavioral Health Association. They are developing a program for the community to work on communication between students, parents, and schools. School officials will meet with the Jim Thorpe Police Department to incorporate it into this program that is being discussed.

The public is invited to attend a community meeting. This meeting is not to discuss the specifics of the case, but to discuss communication and how to keep the school and community safe. The meeting will be held Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. in the Jim Thorpe Area High School.

The district will be looking into ways to try and prevent further incidents. Some ideas discussed at the meeting included random bus checks and clear plastic backpacks.

Metal detectors were mentioned, but William Juracka, director of Transportation and Security, felt that metal detectors would not be feasible. With metal detectors everything would go off, things like change and belt buckles, and it would take a long time to get students through.

"We're looking at things, not to intrude on students. I don't want our kids to be afraid," stated Conway.

"But we also want to make sure they're safe," she added.

"We are just looking forward to moving forward," Conway later stated.

"We feel we have handled the situation in a straight-forward manner, but you always learn from these things, and we are looking to get some suggestions from both parents and police," Conway added.

The school board voted and approved the expulsion of the student for a period of not less than one year.

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