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A Pistol and a Bomb: False SHS Security Threat Strikes through Social Media

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A Pistol and a Bomb: False SHS Security Threat Strikes through Social Media

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For most students, following Thanksgiving break, Monday was just another school day, as their thoughts returned to stressing over their new assignments and next tests. Perhaps some had heard rumors of something happening over the weekend, or read the school emails, but there was an overall sense of normalcy as students and faculty went about their activities. This was thanks to the immediate and cautionary response by administration and police after threats emerged Sunday on social media targeting a Scarsdale student and the high school.

Early November 25, an Instagram account posted a photo of the high school, with a caption tagging an SHS student and implying possible violence with a pistol. The family of the student notified the school and the police. Later, another post by the same account was discovered that threatened bombing the high school. Scarsdale administration asked the Scarsdale Police Department (SPD) for the county bomb squad to sweep the school. The subsequent search of the building confirmed there were no bombs.

The since deleted first post, mentioning a ‘pistol’ and tagging a Scarsdale student.

Following protocol, the administration quickly responded as soon as they received news of the threats. Through countless urgent calls, messages, and emails, members of the SHS administration, the district administration, the SPD and others deliberated on what steps to take. Among those who led operations were SHS Principal Kenneth Bonamo, Superintendent Thomas Hagerman, and District Director of Security Mike Spedaliere, a retired police officer. “[Spedaliere] knows a lot about the field of security and law enforcement, and has worked really well with our partners in the police department and been offering thoughts to me about how to proceed”, commented Bonamo. Spedaliere’s position as director of security was created only this school year, an addition that reflects a national growing concern for the safety of schools in the US.

As a primary response to the threats, police presence was increased on campus Monday morning, and somewhat more noticeably, the following Tuesday. Additionally, Bonamo and other high school administrators reassuringly greeted students and faculty outside school entrances. “It was a bit strange seeing so many people by the entrance but it wasn’t a big deal and I just walked in,” said Aaron Klein ’22. Klein’s nonchalant views of what might have been a more serious situation are reflected in most of the student body. The only true reminders of what was a threat of school security seem to only be the police presence outside and the homeroom announcements about the upcoming lockdown drill.

The since deleted second post from the same account, threatening to bomb the school.

The investigation of the accounts themselves fell under the jurisdiction of the SPD, who can only provide limited information to the Scarsdale administration and the public. In addition to the identities of the people behind the posts, the SPD will also keep private any disciplinary actions if the perpetrators are teens. Whether they are possibly students at Scarsdale is uncertain. Still, the anonymity provided by social media means that the post could theoretically have been made by anyone. “Whether this was a joke—which is a very sick joke and an illegal joke—or whether it was real—and I hope that it wasn’t—these social media platforms give individuals tremendous power to wreak havoc,” commented Bonamo. The increase of these kinds of threats, enabled by the proliferation of social media and the internet, also raise questions about how administrators—in schools and in the spheres of politics and security—should assess the validities of such claims and appropriately respond.

In light of the community’s desire to learn more information, Bonamo explained the district’s difficult struggle of formulating responses that are informative to the public and still within the administration’s ability. The SPD prohibited the administration from sharing pieces of information, or refused to share other details. Simply, some information could still be unknown. “There’s a lot of things that people want to know, and at some point, you have to trust that people in leadership positions—myself, superintendent, people around us—are making wise decisions. And that’s hard, to say to people, I can’t tell you all that I know, but based upon what I know, this is what I think we have to do. And people often want to be able to evaluate your decision with all the information you had when you made the decision. And when you say that they can’t do that, that feels frustrating sometimes, right? And that’s when it gets a little tense,” reflected Bonamo.

Throughout the process, Bonamo and Hagerman were effective in regularly updating and informing the community, sending out 4 email blasts to the district while also responding to individual emails and calls from concerned parents. Late afternoon on Tuesday, the 4th email stated that the SPD had determined the social media posts “do not pose a threat to the school or the individual student who was initially mentioned.” Though the threat is thankfully over, it adds to the string of past scares at Scarsdale, joining the ranks of the recent false bomb threat at Quaker Ridge and the bomb threat at the SHS two years ago.

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A Pistol and a Bomb: False SHS Security Threat Strikes through Social Media