Belchertown increases police presence at schools after anonymous threat

Belchertown Police Chief Kevin Pacunas and school officials increased police presence at the town’s school buildings this week after an anonymous threat was made over the holiday weekend.

Belchertown Police Chief Kevin Pacunas and school officials increased police presence at the town’s school buildings this week after an anonymous threat was made over the holiday weekend. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By EMILEE KLEIN

Staff Writer

Published: 11-29-2023 2:41 PM

BELCHERTOWN — Police presence has increased in schools this week after Belchertown School District employees received an anonymous email threat toward the schools over the weekend.

The email, received on Nov. 25, vaguely threatened all the school buildings, warning of an incoming danger on Monday. According to the Belchertown Police Department’s Facebook page, Belchertown police, firefighters, State Police, and school district staff inspected all the school buildings on Sunday, but could not find any issues or evidence confirming the threat.

“Nothing has been found to be verified. Everything pointed to it being a hoax. That said, the schools and police departments have taken it very seriously,” School Committee Chair Heidi Gutenkenst said.

Gutenkenst and police said expanding police attendance is a purely preventative, as no officers or school staff found corroborating information or evidence that school buildings are endangered.

“Every threat, whether rumored or explicit, receives the highest level of attention and seriousness,” a Facebook post from Belchertown Police Department said. “Out of abundance of caution, there will be an increased police presence within the district tomorrow and throughout the week. There is no information or evidence indicating any specific or credible threats to our schools.”

Police Chief Kevin Pacunas said parents, staff and students initially raised concern on Monday, flooding the station with calls. However, he reports “that everyone feels much more at ease today (Wednesday) than they did on Monday morning.”

“Our schools are extremely safe regardless of any increased police presence. But having an increased police presence does make the schools safer and equally importantly makes everyone feel safer,” he added.

Gutenkenst said students likely didn’t notice the increased police presence, especially since children are used to seeing a school resource officer on campus.

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“If their parents haven’t told them about it, I don’t think it would stand out to them as weird,” she said.

She also said she was impressed with how fast school administration responded and investigated the school buildings. Superintendent Brian Cameron, Director of Buildings and Grounds Eric Lebeau and the principals all helped emergency services with inspections.

“These threats, real or hoax threats, are just the way of life now. I’m just so glad everything is taken seriously,” Gutenkenst said.

Emily Klein can be reached at eklein@gazettenet.com.