School officials are trying to find a better way to handle vague threats after Central Park K-8 School students were sent home without their coats Monday.
Students were not allowed to go to their lockers before dismissal because someone had written on a bathroom wall that there was a gun in a locker.
At first it seemed the students would just be a little cold, but a host of unintended consequences hit the district.
An asthmatic student had to walk home in the cold without a coat, which triggered his asthma. Making matters worse, he didn’t have his inhaler — it was in his locker, with his coat.
Other students had to leave without their house keys and came home to find themselves locked out. They also didn’t have their phones because those were in their lockers, too.
Superintendent Laurence Spring said the situation was too dangerous.
“It’s putting everyone’s safety at risk,” said Spring, who does not want kids sent home without their belongings again.
The school has had five lockdowns this year, each because of vague threats like the gun warning. In each case, police searched the school and found nothing, but Spring said he doesn’t want to assume every threat is fake.
Still, he said, it’s become a safety risk. He’s contacted experts on the issue to help him find a way to put a stop to it.
One parent told the school board that her 6-year-old son wanted to wear his coat all day Tuesday “just in case” he wasn’t allowed to go to his locker at the end of the day.
“I love Central Park and I’ve been an ardent cheerleader for the model,” parent Deirdre Delaney said, referring to the model of keeping middle school students in the same building as elementary students, “but it’s getting harder to cheer as loudly.”
She said she couldn’t criticize staff for taking the threats seriously, but questioned why the district had not found and punished the students making the threats.
“Five in less than three months is disgraceful,” she said. “There’s got to be some action that can be taken that will instill in these children that these actions have consequences.”
The three-story building has just two hall monitors, she said, suggesting more monitors might help. She added that Spring ought to hold an assembly for the older students.
“Bring the police in. Read them the riot act,” she said.
But Spring said that might encourage the student who is making the threats. He said the student might think, “ ‘Look how much power I have, look at what I can get adults to do.’ ”
He also said the district doesn’t know which student — or students — made the threats, but he suspects there’s more to it than a student simply wanting to get out of school.
“When we talk with behaviorists, it’s often a lot more complex than that,” he said.
For now, school officials are trying to find ways to take the threats seriously without putting students in danger. They are increasing supervision, as well as taking other steps.
“We are looking at this from a number of different viewpoints,” Spring said.