New Shippensburg Area School District Superintendent Dr. Chris Suppo alerted the public and parents Tuesday evening of a potential bomb threat to possibly be executed sometime Wednesday at the high school.
“This afternoon, the Shippensburg administration was made aware of a potential bomb threat targeting our high school tomorrow,” Suppo’s email read. “Local law enforcement was engaged immediately to work with the administration to assess the threat and assist in developing a plan to ensure student safety. In an abundance of caution, regional and local law enforcement will be prevalent at our high school during arrival and dismissal times tomorrow. Prior to building entry, law enforcement K-9 units will clear the building to ensure it is safe. Law enforcement will also be highly visible throughout the day, making rounds in all of our buildings. Faculty and staff have also been alerted and will help ensure we are vigilant throughout our schools, and to immediately report any suspicious or unusual activity. High school building entry points will be limited to the front entrance and the rear entrance near the auditorium lobby with police presence, while students are entering the building in the morning. Please speak with your high school student regarding these changes for tomorrow. All students and staff members can safely enter the building after 6:45 a.m. We thank everyone in advance for their patience as we initiate changes to ensure the safety of our students and staff.”
Chief Meredith Dominick of the Shippensburg Police Department said Wednesday afternoon the morning went very smoothly.
“The threat is still under investigation,” she noted. “Our superintendent put a plan out, and so far, it is working beautifully. We have the afternoon dismissal to get through, but everything is going well.”
Dominick said the threat was received via a telephone tip to the superintendent’s office on Tuesday.
In a prepared statement released Wednesday morning, Suppo said: “Police canvassed the high school facility last night, and again this morning prior to students and staff reporting,” he continued. “Police were accompanied by school district staff while utilizing K-9 officers trained to detect explosive devices. Entry points to the building for students and staff were minimized to maximize personnel and K-9 officers as the building opened this morning. The building was canvassed by K-9 officers from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, coordinated through the Shippensburg Police Department. Due to the potential threat and the sensitivity of this day as we remember the horrific acts committed on Sept. 11, 2001, we have also coordinated to have a high police presence throughout our district facilities, in addition to increased vigilance by students and staff to report anything unusual. While this threat was a disruption for our students and families today, there are two outcomes we must recognize: One - Families should know that our students are very safe in our schools. Two - Through thoughtful communication and planning, the administration, staff and our police department responded appropriately, as we must take all threats seriously.”
Suppo said in a telephone interview Wednesday that the police presence through the district was great, and it has been a normal day.
“We put a good plan in place to make sure our students were safe, our faculty were safe, and one that would help the parents in the community could feel good about sending their kids to school,” he noted.
Suppo said he hadn’t gone over enrollment reports as of 2 p.m., but knew attendance was down about 20 to 25 percent at the high school.
“That is understandable,” he added. “Parents need to make those decisions regarding the safety of their children.”
Suppo said it was a very safe day to send students to school because of the additional law enforcement presence.
When asked his views on adding a school resource officer in the district, Suppo said he feels having an officer in the district will be a great benefit. He noted the district’s articulation agreements with local law enforcement are very appreciated.
“They are present in and around our schools, and they do drive around and patrol our campuses. We do appreciate that,” he added.
Suppo said the school board is considering options with a school resource officer for the district. However, directors were waiting for him to get settled into his new role that he began Monday prior to making any decisions. The school board has already allotted $100,000 in the 2019-20 budget for a school resource officer.
“We don’t want to just have a knee-jerk reaction, and we want to make sure we do what is best for the district,” he added.
Suppo noted the cooperation between the district and borough police was excellent yesterday.
“We worked very well together,” he said. “We developed a comprehensive plan to get the kids in here, and do so in a safe way. We are looking forward to continuing that relationship and expanding upon it. So many students this morning were very thankful for this presence. It made them feel at home, made them feel safe and made them feel comfortable. I don’t think we could have asked for a better day in light of the circumstances.”