Can a student return to school after making threats, and who makes that decision?

Investigators

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Shalee Ellis wasn’t taking any chances when she heard a student made an alleged threat involving Mechanicsburg Middle School, where her son is a student.

“My son is home with me today,” Ellis said.

Mechanicsburg School District sent this email to parents Sunday Night.

MMS Parents/Guardians,

This evening the MMS administration was made aware of an alleged threat involving the school.  This situation   was reported by a family through the Safe to Say program, allowing the police to immediately begin investigating    the legitimacy of the threat.  We are working in cooperation with the police.  I am glad to report that through the     investigation, we are confident the allegation has been addressed.  Thank you for reporting concerning behavior     immediately through the Safe to Say system.  Have a good evening.  

Joel Yohn
M.M.S. Principal

Ellis says several students learned about the threat on Friday afternoon and told their parents, who reported the incident to Safe2Say Something.

“We should have been contacted before Sunday evening,” said Ellis.

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The Mechanicsburg School District sent out another email Monday morning.

Good morning.  We wanted to provide you with an update regarding the situation which we made you aware of   last evening.  Additional details continue coming to light that are assisting in the ongoing investigation.  We are     aware of the source of the alleged threat.  We are confident that the interventions of the school and police are    creating a safe environment for students and staff.  There is no doubt that these situations bring rise to angst,   particularly in light of recent events in our nation.  While it is human nature to draw comparisons, it is important    to know that anytime we have a situation of this nature, students for whom we have concern do not attend    school during the investigation.

We would like to thank you for your support in this effort.  We will no doubt be speaking with additional students  and families throughout the day and appreciate your openness in those conversations.  In particular, thank you  for utilizing the Safe to Say system to report concerning behavior.  

Joel Yohn
MMS Principal

While the district indicates the student would not be in school it left parents asking, who determines when it is safe for a student to return to school if they have threatened to harm others?

The abc27 Investigators reached out to Hempfield School District in Lancaster County. A 12-year-old student was recently charged with 2 counts of terroristic threats for allegedly making threats last week that he was going to commit a shooting at Centerville Middle School.

While Hempfield School District does not comment on disciplinary action it did provide the abc27 Investigators with its policy which states terroristic threats or acts can result in a 10 day out-of-school suspension or expulsion.

Mechanicsburg School District has a similar policy and it also states if a student is expelled for making terroristic threats and wants to come back to school they must quote “provide competent and credible evidence that the student does not pose a risk of harm to others.”

According to a Mechanicsburg School District Spokesperson, “Individuals of concern do not attend school during an investigation, which in this case, is currently ongoing. The purpose of that investigation is to separate facts from rumors to determine what actually occurred. Our Code of Conduct provides many options for outcomes depending on the results of that investigation. This could include everything from expulsion and suspension to mental health services. Student safety will remain at the core of these decisions as we work to support everyone involved, regardless of their role in the situation.”

At this time no charges have been filed against the Mechanicsburg student that allegedly made threats.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t necessarily think the child just returns to the normal way of living. I just don’t see how that is safe or healthy for anybody, that child, or their peers. We need swift proactive reactions. We have to be ahead of it. We can’t be chasing after the problem,” Ellis said.

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