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Schools deal with gun threats as students return from break

Schools deal with gun threats as students return from break

Shooting renews call for police officers in schools
Schools deal with gun threats as students return from break
Students attend a prayer service at Parkridge Church in Coral Springs, Fla.
Photographer: SAUL MARTINEZ/THE NEW YORK TIMES

CAPITAL REGION — Threats of gun violence — one leading to a student's arrest in Corinth and an unsubstantiated threat in Gloversville — accompanied the return of students to regional schools on Monday.

The threats were part of a wider uptick in threats of school violence seen across the country, following a deadly school shooting in Florida less than two weeks ago, according to the Educator’s School Safety Network.

Saratoga County sheriff’s deputies were at Corinth Central School on Monday morning to arrest a 14-year-old student for allegedly threatening to shoot his ex-girlfriend and other students. The deputies were already at the school because the department has increased its presence at schools countywide in response to the Florida shooting, Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said.

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The student allegedly texted his 13-year-old ex-girlfriend to say he was planning to bring a gun to school to shoot classmates, beginning with her. The ex-girlfriend reported the text to a school administrator who passed it along to a sheriff’s deputy at the school.

The student was taken into custody outside the school; he did not have a weapon on him or access to guns at his home, Zurlo said. The student was charged with a felony count of making a terroristic threat and a misdemeanor count of aggravated harassment, the sheriff said.

In Gloversville, city police increased their presence at Gloversville middle and high schools Monday morning after word had spread since Friday about a threat of a school shooting at the middle school. Despite multiple reports of a threat, Gloversville police were unable to pinpoint its source, Gloversville Police Chief Marc Porter said on Monday. That led police to label the threat as not credible.

“We can’t find the source at this point that there was even a post made that substantiates any threat to the middle school," Porter said.

Reports of the threat began circulating Friday morning. The school district, in a statement posted to its website on Sunday, said the threat originated on Snapchat, a social media platform where messages are not preserved in the same way they are on Facebook or Twitter.

Police increased patrols around the middle and high school campuses Monday, and Porter said they are continuing to investigate the threat.

“It’s basically vague rumors: Hey, we heard this, and that’s what’s spread,” Porter said, adding he didn’t want to deter people from reporting suspicious activity or behavior. “I think it created a lot of concern and anxiety for students and parents … I think we responded appropriately and will continue to investigate.”

The Educator’s School Safety Network, an organization that tracks and researches violence and threats of violence at schools, has reported an uptick in the number of violent threats at schools in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, that claimed 17 lives.

In the week following the Florida shooting, the group counted at least 50 threats or violent incidents per day at schools across the country. Previously, the group recorded an average of between 10 and 12 threats on a typical school day.

The Florida shooting, which resulted in a wave of student advocacy for stricter gun laws, has focused national attention on concerns about school safety. The New York State Sheriff’s Association last week called for state funding to provide at least one armed school resource officer in every grade school and high school in the state — nearly 7,000 schools, including private schools. In Gloversville and other districts and counties throughout the region, school resource officer positions have been cut over the past decade as part of municipal and school district budget cuts.

On Monday, Fulton County Sheriff Rich Giardino offered a proposal with the county committee on public safety to get school districts in the county to commit $7,000 a year for three years to create a school resource officer position that could be shared across four districts. Giardino and other law enforcement officials said having a school resource officer devoted to specific schools strengthens connections to students and staff and helps assist with safety training throughout the year.

State Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, this weekend released a proposal to establish a new state license plate — the “Guardians for Schools” plate — to raise money to enhance safety measures at schools, including school resource officer positions and increased mental health counseling and teacher training.

He said he also supports increased funding for school safety in the state budget and acknowledged the license plate measure was not sufficient to fund the full needs of New York schools. Tedisco said the proposal was still in the works and he expected to have a bill ready to introduce later this week or early next week.

“I don’t think we have enough money with this proposal to complete all the work we need to do in keeping schools safe, but I think it’s something that can help with it,” Tedisco said on Monday. “I don’t think there is really an answer to a final solution on this [school safety issue], but I wanted to take some action to find some dollars to make a safer school setting.”

This report contains information from the New York Times News Service.

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