March 18, 2019
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The day after a gun threat at a Maine school, another student set off a firecracker in the building

Bill Trotter | BDN
Bill Trotter | BDN

ELLSWORTH, Maine — Back-to-back incidents last week in which one high school student allegedly threatened to shoot people at school and another student is believed to have set off a firecracker the next day in the auditorium have resulted in school officials considering whether to hold expulsion hearings for each student.

The two students, both boys, have been charged with crimes as a result of the incidents, according to Ellsworth police Chief Glenn Moshier. The names of the boys have not been released because the names of juveniles charged with crimes are not considered public information.

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On Tuesday, Oct. 9, a 17-year-old Ellsworth boy allegedly told another boy on a bus that he “was going to shoot up the school [and] he hated everyone,” Moshier said Monday. A girl who overheard the comment told her parent, who reported it to school officials and police.

Moshier said that, upon investigation, police determined the threat was not viable because the student did not have access to any firearms.

“He claimed he was joking,” Moshier said.

The boy has been charged with one misdemeanor count of terrorizing, the chief said.

That evening, Ellsworth schools Superintendent Dan Higgins sent out a message to parents of all Ellsworth school students informing them of the incident and letting them know the student had been charged and would not be in school the next day.

In a separate incident the following day, a 14-year-old boy from Hancock set off a firecracker in the high school auditorium in the presence of other students, but no one was hurt.

Students and staff reacted quickly to identify the source of the sound and the person responsible. The boy had other firecrackers with him but did not set off any more.

The 14-year-old boy has been charged with one count of criminal use of explosives, Moshier said.

“If there ever was a good day to do that,” the police chief said, “that day wasn’t it.”

Higgins said that because of the threat the day before, students and staff at Ellsworth High School were especially alarmed at the sound of a firecracker going off in the auditorium. He said the school board is considering whether to hold an expulsion hearing for each of the boys.

“You cannot take things seriously enough,” Higgins said, citing recent examples of mass shootings, in schools and elsewhere. “Students and staff were frightened. Their safety is our highest priority.”

Attempts Monday afternoon to contact Ellsworth High School Principal Dan Clifford and Brenda Thomas, chairman of the Ellsworth school board, were unsuccessful.

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