Officials pledge safety after Topsham school threats

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TOPSHAM — Police Chief Chris Lewis and School Administrative District 75 Superintendent Brad Smith on Feb. 16 publicly reiterated their commitment to school safety.

Their statements followed school threats and a bomb scare the prior two days, on the heels of a school shooting Feb. 14 in Florida that took the lives of 17 students and staff.

“Our agency will continue to make every effort to ensure the student body feels safe while attending school within our community,” Lewis stated, adding that he would continue investigating information his department receives, and keep the community apprised.

“I want to thank those concerned students and parents who reported information to the authorities,” Smith said. “School safety, especially after the incident in Florida, is of concern to everyone. Our school system responded as we had practiced. We are so grateful to our local officials, and their swift and immediate actions.”

Smith added that “these are unsettling times,” noting that he, too, is a parent, who understands “the fear and anxiety that school incidents generate. We are pleased that neither situation proved to be as significant as initially reported. Any threats to the students or staff of our school system are taken seriously, and we will continue to cooperate with law enforcement agencies.”

Students were evacuated from Woodside Elementary School the morning of Feb. 16 in response to a bomb threat, one day after reports of threats at Mt. Ararat High School. A parent had passed along the information, according to Lewis.

“In an abundance of caution in response to a safety threat to Woodside School, we have relocated all Woodside staff and students to the Orion (Performing Arts Center), next to the Middle School. Staff and students are all safe at the Orion,” SAD 75 reported on Facebook.

Additional police officers were on duty at Mt. Ararat High School that morning, following a report the previous day of two potential threats.

Administrators on Feb. 15 heard a report that a student “had made a statement that suggested a threat of violence tomorrow at school,” Principal Donna Brunette wrote later that day on the school website. “Follow up conversations suggest this is a rumor and Topsham Police have followed up on this report.”

Brunette also mentioned two boys conversing about an online video game that focuses on school violence and remarks that something could be done at the school to alarm students. Those students are being disciplined for causing a “significant disturbance at school and language that suggests a threat.”

She said police were looking into the matter.

“Based on information gathered regarding both reports, administration does not believe that there is any credible threat of violence at our school,” the principal said.

Lewis opted to “provide additional officer presence at the high school (Feb. 16), which we hope will bring some sense of comfort and reassurance to parents, students and staff,” Smith noted.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Police and school officials responded to a bomb threat at Woodside Elementary School in Topsham Feb. 16, a day after alleged threats at nearby Mt. Ararat High School.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.