GUILFORD, Maine — About 50 concerned parents attended Tuesday evening’s SAD 4 board meeting to discuss recent bomb scares at the schools.
Piscataquis Community Secondary School was closed Tuesday after a bomb threat was discovered by a custodian about 7 a.m. It was the third such threat in the school system in as many weeks.
Several parents asked the same question at the meeting: What is being done?
“I have two children who won’t go to school because they’re fearful,” said Dawn Simon of Sangerville. “Let’s face it, this is 2013, these children need to be prepared for safety precautions aside from fire drills.”
Another mother said she would like a bomb threat drill in place.
“My biggest fear is one day it’s going to happen and we’re not going to be prepared for it,” said Amanda Kane, who has two children in the school system. “I hear all the time that I’m overreacting and this is small-town Guilford, but you know what my response was? It was small-town Newtown, Conn., as well. It does happen. I’m paranoid, I’m frustrated and I’m emotional by just leaving my children at this school system.”
Superintendent Paul Stearns spoke at length about the parents’ concerns. He said the bomb threats are always taken seriously and a comprehensive safety plan is in place for the district.
Safety measures being considered include a system that would keep doors locked at all times and force visitors to be buzzed into the building. A panic button linked to the Sheriff’s Department, updated security cameras, a full-time school resource officer and Facebook notifications are also being considered.
After the meeting, several parents were upset and said Stearns dodged their questions.
“I think tonight was a joke,” said Leona Leathers of Sangerville, who has two children in the district. “The runaround we got this evening — we didn’t get any answers.”
Dale Gray of Sangerville said the district has a great comprehensive safety plan, but it’s not being followed.
“I know in the past when we’ve had bomb threats the buses were checked first and the kids were loaded onto the buses and removed from the school. Personal vehicles weren’t allowed to be removed and the place was locked down. It was Fort Knox,” said Gray, a 1988 graduate of PCHS. “Now they’re taking them from one school to the other. They’re not taking it seriously. If they were, why would they be doing something different than they’ve done before?”
Gray said he believed many of the notes are pranks or a cry for help.
High school junior Jamie Libby of Guilford, who attended the meeting with her mother, said she wants the threats to stop and for the administration to be more open with students.
“They haven’t been addressing the students. They haven’t been keeping us informed,” she said after the meeting.
When asked if she felt safe in schools, Libby replied, “No.
“It’s a good school, but right now, they need to get their act together,” she said.
Several parents said the high-schoolers see the threats as a joke but children from the primary school are frightened and don’t understand what’s going on during the bomb scares.
“My daughter said kids are in school crying all the time [because of the threats],” said Leathers.
Stearns said everything that can be done to make children safe and feel safe is being done, but he can’t make guarantees.
“I spent a lot of time on the telephone today and I had people wanting me to guarantee the safety of the kids,” he said. “I just can’t do that. I can guarantee we’re going to make safety a high priority in the school system. I can guarantee that we’re going to do everything in our power to make students not only physically safe, but feel safe so they feel emotionally safe [at school].”