Northampton High School has ‘controlled dismissal’ after threatening note found in bathroom
NORTHAMPTON — Students at Northampton High School were kept in their classrooms and dismissed under police supervision Wednesday after a reportedly threatening note was found in one of the school bathrooms.
About 45 minutes after the message was reported, police investigated a report of an armed man dressed in camouflage in the area between JFK Middle School and the Route 9 roundabout.
And in East Longmeadow, a bomb threat was called in to Birchland Park Middle School around the time students were being dismissed at 2 p.m. East Longmeadow Police Sgt. Jeffrey Dalessio said students were evacuated and police determined it was a hoax after searching the building.
Dalessio and Northampton Police Sgt. Alan Borowski both said copycat threats and false alarms are common after a mass shooting like the one in Newtown, Conn., on Friday.
“I’ve heard about threats all over the country,” Borowski said.
Borowski said JFK Middle School did not go into lockdown because police could not locate anyone matching the description. They found out later in the afternoon that it was an Environmental Police officer who was in the area to euthanize an animal in distress.
Although the incident was an honest mistake, Borowski said it is not surprising because everyone seems to be more alert than usual.
“After that tragedy, everyone is more vigilant,” he said Wednesday night. “Something that you might overlook before, you notice now.”
As a result of the threatening message at Northampton High School, police cleared the building, and after-school activities, including athletic practices, were canceled.
Principal Nancy Athas said a student discovered an anonymous message in one of the boys’ bathrooms at lunchtime that contained “a threat to the school.” She and police declined to be more specific about the nature of the message because the investigation was still ongoing Wednesday night.
Shortly after the threat was reported, Athas said the school’s crisis team met and decided to hold students in their classrooms until they could be dismissed at the normal time of 2 p.m. Students and teachers were let out of the building floor by floor, following a school safety protocol known as a “controlled early dismissal.” Nothing unusual was found during the search.
Northampton police were present during the dismissal process and Athas said police will “be a presence here (Thursday) morning, as well.”
She said otherwise, it would be “business as usual” at the high school Thursday.
“This was not a drill,” Athas said of Wednesday’s events. “It all went pretty smoothly.”
Northampton Superintendent Brian Salzer sent an automated phone message to school families around 3:40 p.m. that described Wednesday’s event at the high school as a “controlled early dismissal with police supervision.”
Salzer said police and school administrators were “grateful for the respectful way” that students responded to protocol. “Everyone is safe,” he said in the phone message.
Speaking privately because he was not authorized to comment, a Northampton High School teacher told the Gazette that the situation “was handled very professionally.”
He said the student who discovered the note took a picture of it on a cellphone and a friend turned it in to Assistant Principal Bryan Lombardi.
Sgt. Dalessio said the East Longmeadow Police Department was investigating leads about who may have called in the bomb threat. “We’re comfortable we won’t need additional security at the schools (Thursday),” he said.