Sunday, May 31, 2020

Blue Ridge Shuts Down Amidst Threats

Exclusive Interview with Superintendent Mathew Button

By: Tyler Hillard/Co-Editor-in-Chief

Blue Ridge School District was closed Friday, October 4th after threats were made against the school the day prior (10/3).

The School District was notified of these threats through the new anonymous tip system implemented last year across Pennsylvania called Safe2Say.

At 5:04 pm on October 3rd, Blue Ridge released the following statement after news of the threat started to spread on social media, “The Blue Ridge School District officials and local law enforcement are aware of a reported threat against the school that has been circulating on social media. School officials and local law enforcement are conducting an investigation and addressing the issue ASAP.

This is just one of a few threats against NEPA these past weeks. The list of schools includes Dunmore, Scranton, and West Scranton School Districts.

A few hours later at 8:24 pm (10/3), Blue Ridge released a follow-up statement, “Good evening. Earlier this evening, the district received an anonymous tip through the state’s Safe2Say System and notification was sent to the Blue Ridge Community that school officials and local law enforcement were investigating the tip ASAP. This message is to notify the Blue Ridge Community that local law enforcement and the state police reported they believe they have identified the source. All parties involved have been investigated thoroughly and appropriate action has been taken. In recent days, several districts across northeastern Pennsylvania have had to respond to such threats. The Blue Ridge School District will continue to investigate all tips and threats as student and staff safety is the district’s number one priority. School will be in session tomorrow as scheduled.”

After that statement, many parents went to the Blue Ridge Parent Forum on Facebook as many of them were still not satisfied. Hundreds of comments including “keeping my kids home tomorrow” and “they say they BELIEVE they have identified the source, not good enough for me, staying home.” were just some of the main themes amongst the overwhelming amount of comments.

Blue Ridge’s final statement came at 10:54 pm (10/3) pronouncing school would close October 4th. “The Blue Ridge School District will be closed tomorrow, Friday October 4. Since the message earlier this evening that school will be in session tomorrow, school officials have received additional anonymous tips that need to be investigated and are unable to investigate all reports prior to school opening tomorrow. The District understands that threats on a school can bring fear for our students and the district wants to make sure that when students return to school on Monday, October 7 that they are returning to a safe and secure school environment. The safety of our students is our number 1 priority. Again, school will be closed tomorrow, October 4. Thank you.

Many parent’s emotions completely shifted and were grateful that the school would eventually close, assuring them that their kids would be safe without them having to worry.

Superintendent Mr. Mathew Button said that “The administration handled the situation very seriously and swiftly to investigate the threats and find more information.” He also stated that the School Resource Officer (SRO) Greg Deck was a great help in all of this, “He was involved from A to Z the whole time. He and I were in constant communication and having him directly in contact with the State Police was a great help.”

As stated earlier the threats were first reported to the school by Safe2Say. Mr. Button said that he first was informed by a text and email from Safe2Say. He ultimately believes the system has good intentions, but at times can be difficult to obtain information about serious topics like this due to the anonymous aspect of the system. “You get the tip but that’s it. No information about who sent it, what age they are, nothing. Even with the limited information, we were able to obtain the additional information we needed.” Button said.

We tried to contact Blue Ridge teachers about the threats, but due to contract stipulations, they were not allowed to comment on the situation. Even though teachers were not allowed to directly comment if you ask any student they would tell you that the teachers and staff at Blue Ridge do everything in their ability to make sure their students feel safe and protected in the classroom.

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Tyler Hillard
Tyler Hillard is a senior in his second year of journalism. Tyler is also a three-sport varsity athlete competing in baseball, basketball and golf. Besides a constant life of sports he is an avid outdoors-men and loves debating politics.

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