EASD officials, police address threat rumors

By on January 10, 2018

School officials said more than 400 students did not attend class Wednesday

Several parents contacted The Ephrata Review on Tuesday and Wednesday to express worries of a possible threat to Ephrata High School students.

The concerns stem from social media posts, parents said.

The Ephrata Area School District and Ephrata High School sent an e-mail last week to parents explaining that officials looked into every rumor presented and determined “no threat was ever made, but it continues to pop back up in one form or another.”

But a  message sent Wednesday noted a change.

“Since sharing the attached message with Ephrata High School parents and guardians last Friday, we have been made aware of additional social media activity and received further information regarding an alleged threat.”

School officials said more than 400 students did not attend class Wednesday.  Total enrollment  at the school is 1,242.

The e-mail sent Wednesday continues: “We continue to keep the police fully informed as they investigate this matter. Police will be on-site during their investigation.”

Ephrata Police on Wednesday confirmed it was aware of the situation and have communicated with school resource  officer Paul Moore.

Ephrata police said it has “been working hand in hand with the Ephrata Area School District to address this concerning situation since it emerged in October 2017.”

The statement released by EASD explained: “In recent weeks, rumors of an alleged threat against Ephrata High School have been circulating. We would like to take a moment to add context to the origin of these rumors.

“We would like to thank all of the parents and students who have brought various versions of this rumor to our attention when they became aware of them. Too many times people would dismiss concerning items. It is reassuring to serve a community where safety concerns are not overlooked or brushed aside.”

The e-mail continues: “Due to the nature of the rumor we will certainly have heightened security during this time, and we are asking all students and parents/guardians to be extra vigilant about reporting anything of concern relating to this topic.”

The Ephrata Police statement concluded: “Officers, supervisors, and detectives from the Department have worked diligently to sort fact from rumor and to ensure that any threat or potential threat to the safety of our citizens is uncovered and addressed.  The investigation has identified and vetted the sources of all known social media posts,  along with other sources of information.”

EASD on Wednesday explained that “as with any situation that disrupts the learning environment, there are potential legal and school disciplinary repercussions that may occur.  However, the District cannot share specific information related to active police measures or student disciplinary investigations.”

The original statement sent to parents by EASD explained that on Oct. 17, EHS had an assembly called Rachel’s Challenge about the life and positive message of Rachel Joy Scott who was the first victim of the Columbine school shooting in 1999.

“After the assembly, a group of students had a conversation on Oct. 17 about what happened at Columbine. The content of that conversation came up again on Nov. 16, which is the root of the rumors. Concerns were reported to EHS administration at that time.”

This was investigated in mid-November with the school resource officer and the Ephrata Borough Police, who have been involved every step of the way.

EASD noted that, “While such a conversation about a school shooting would be troubling out of context, no threat was actually made. People overheard bits and pieces of conversations and repeated them which led to this situation. No date for an event was ever part of the original conversation, that was an added rumor later on and has taken on a life of its own.”

Patrick Burns is social media editor and a staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

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Social media editor and staff writer for Ephrata Review and Lititz Record Express.

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