SHIRLEY — Threats against the safety of students and faculty at Shirley Middle School have been found written on the boys’ lavatory walls three times over the past several weeks, interim Principal Thomas Casey said.
Police and Fire departments responded to a call from the school on April 10 and again on the following day for what Casey said were handwritten messages that suggested a possible bomb threat.
Following April vacation and a week-long stint without incident, a third message was found on Monday, May 8, in the boys’ bathroom, said Casey.
A student found the threatening graffiti and immediately reported it to a staff member, he said.
”It was a great thing (the student) did,” Casey said.
Police responded to the call from the school after it reported the most recent threat at 11:13 a.m. The Fire Department was dispatched to assist, according to the police report.
Following the first two threats, Casey formed a policy that tightened accessibility to the restrooms which was implemented with the aid of the school’s teachers and staff.
The procedure enabled the school to identify a small number of suspects for police, based on who had visited the boys’ restroom between the time the third message was reported and the time Casey inspected it approximately 10 minutes earlier, said Casey.
”Because of this monitoring system we were able to zero in on a couple of kids,” he said.
The parents of the students that are under investigation in have been notified.
Based on additional evidence found following the third incident, some of the students were cleared after questioning, he said.
The safety protocol limited access to only the main foyer bathrooms, said Casey. Students are required to sign out before leaving their classrooms to use the facilities and sign in at the main office before entering.
By this process, a log was kept of which students were in the bathrooms at any given time. At regular intervals, Casey and members of the janitorial staff have been inspecting the restrooms for threatening graffiti, according to Casey.
The procedure was still in place at the school on Tuesday.
”We haven’t relaxed anything at this stage,” Casey said.
”It happened, we followed it up, we’ve got procedures in place,” Casey said.
Casey met with students and faculty following the earlier incidents to increase awareness and ask for their support, he said.
Students and staff cooperated fully, Casey said, and had a big understanding that these were isolated cases.
”(The students and staff) have been very keenly aware,” Casey said, “They’ve been very, very cooperative.”
Students have expressed their concern to Casey, who has increased his visibility in the halls of the school, asking if he will be glad when the upset is over, he said.
”They’re sensitive to the fact that this is a tough situation,” Casey said.
Casey said that there are a lot of good things going on in the schools. He feels these incidents shouldn’t reflect on the school as a whole, Casey said.
”This is not typical of what I see is a really good spirit,” he said.
The staff and students, Casey said, have been tremendously supportive over the last few weeks.
Still, Casey said he can’t downplay what the potential threat may be at the school.
”Something like this poses a threat,” Casey said, “It also impacts the lives of a lot of other people.”
Some of the firefighters responding to the calls are volunteers, he said, who have to take time off from work, for instance.
The threats are also disruptive to the whole educational process, Casey said.
”We’re losing class time,” he said.
The administration has had to look at cutting social activities that have been scheduled for students to save further disrupting classes, according to Casey.
”The biggest thing I have to do is to protect the safety of every single teacher and student in the school,” Casey said.