Parents question handling of elementary school lock-down - abc27 WHTM

Parents question handling of elementary school lock-down

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Eric Schelmety Eric Schelmety
YORK, Pa. (WHTM) -

Approximately three dozen parents in the York City School District attended a meeting Monday afternoon to address questions and concerns over a pair of incidents that ultimately resulted in a school being put on lock-down Thursday.

Eric Schelmety, 30, is charged with multiple felony counts, including terroristic threats, after police said he was went to Phineas Davis Elementary School and tried to force his way into the principal's office. According to court documents, Schelmety used a mop and vacuum cleaner to smash windows, which was mistaken for the sound of gunfire.

The school was put on lock-down due to the possibility of an active shooter. Police then arrested Schelmety and transported him to York County Prison.

Parents said they later learned Schelmety had first been arrested on Wednesday for making threats outside the school. A district judge set his bail at $1,500, which he was able to post for just $75 with the help of a bail bondsman, police chief Wes Kahley said.

Kahley told parents that bail was "inappropriate" and that his arresting officer had asked the judge to raise it due to the nature of the threats.

"There were a lot of people who were mentally injured by this traumatic event," Kahley said. "They all believed that they were in danger, that shots were fired -- and they believed they were going to die in those classrooms. So we need to take that very seriously and now look at how we can prevent that in the future."

Jackie Valdez has three young children in the school and said she didn't learn about Wednesday's incident until after Thursday's lock-down when her daughters came home with a letter.

"It's bizarre that we'll get a robo-call for a 2-hour delay, a cancellation -- you know, we get them right away, but for something that's so serious as a terroristic threat to children here, we don't get a robo-call," she said.

Superintendent Dr. Eric Holmes told abc27 his staff will be discussing how to improve the way they communicate with parents during an emergency, but said letters are usually the best method to convene detailed messages.

"It was more information than a robo-call because if you're getting a robo-call, you don't want to hear five to six minutes of a story. It's basically a short message," he said. "So we use a robo-call for short messages, and we use a letter so we can give details."

Holmes said because Wednesday's incident happened in the later part of the afternoon, it was too late to get a letter out with students before they left for the day. He also expressed frustration that police and the school were not notified when Schelmety posted bail.

"Normally when a suspect is released, the victim is notified," he said. "We were the victims in this case."

Holmes praised the handling of the emergency by school staff and police. He also emphasized that no one was physically hurt in either incident.

Schelmety remains in York County Prison on $500,000 bail. Police said he told them he was angry at the school principal for the way she was handling the alleged bullying of his daughter.

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