Categories: Schenectady County
Authorities on Thursday would release little information about a man accused of making a threat against a city elementary school.
An announcement on the Web site of the Greater Amsterdam School District informs readers of an alleged threat made against the Raphael J. McNulty Academy, a district magnet school on Brandt Place in the city.
A letter to parents dated Jan. 22 from Principal Barbara Petersen says a man “allegedly threatened harm to McNulty Academy but did not specifically name any students or staff members.”
The letter states that a relative of the man heard him make the threat and reported it to police.
The threat was made a week prior to the Jan. 22 letter’s drafting, according to Petersen. Authorities declined to describe the nature of the threat.
The man was still being evaluated Thursday by state mental health professionals, according to police.
Petersen’s letter indicates the Amsterdam Police Department would post an officer at the school during school hours “if the individual is released from custody in the near future,” but Detective Lt. Thomas DiMezza of the Amsterdam Police Department said police do not believe that is necessary.
DiMezza cited federal regulations for not releasing the man’s identity, description or a photograph.
“We feel it’s a mental health issue, and it’s a private issue and it’s a HIPAA issue, so we don’t want to make it public,” DiMezza said, referring to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which authorities say prevents them from releasing information about people when they have a medical issue.
DiMezza said Amsterdam school district authorities were given a photograph of the person for future reference and security purposes and asked to restrict its circulation among staff.
“We notified the school because we felt the school should know about it,” DiMezza said. “Do we feel there’s any need to be alarmed? No.”
“If the police department feels that there’s a need to have somebody there, we will certainly put somebody out there,” DiMezza said. “Our feeling now is there’s no need for alarm.”
DiMezza said police intend to follow the man’s progress.
The man is facing a misdemeanor assault charge in a recent unrelated case, DiMezza said.
Depending on the prosecution of that case, DiMezza said, it’s possible authorities could keep an eye on the man through sentencing probation.
“We’re going to definitely be on top of the situation,” DiMezza said.
Amsterdam Superintendent of Schools Ronald Limoncelli said Thursday the issue “is really in the hands of our county sheriff and Amsterdam Police Department.”
Montgomery County Undersheriff Jeff Smith referred questions to the Amsterdam police as lead agency.
The district in this case went “beyond practice,” Limoncelli said, by posting the principal’s letter and holding meetings with staff at the school.
“So I think everybody’s working together to see that nothing happens anywhere in the district,” Limoncelli said.
So far, Limoncelli said, he’s received phone calls from two parents. The situation was explained to them, he said.
Limoncelli declined to divulge information about the district’s security plan as it pertains to threats, saying doing so would compromise those plans.
The district late last year awarded a $786,000 contract for a new, districtwide security project to include swipe cards at doorways, video monitors and metal detectors.
Officials in December said that work was to start at the elementary schools this month with the project to be completed in the fall.