A potential tragedy was averted at an Otsego County high school thanks to the quick thinking of school administrators and police officers.

This is a developing story.

Student Brings Weapon to School

The superintendent of Schenevus Central School informed parents Friday that school staff were "alerted of a potential threat in our school building."

Superintendent Jeffrey Bennett publicly shared a letter to parents explaining the terrifying incident and how the emergency plans already in place potentially saved lives.

School administrators noticed that a student of theirs, who has not been identified, was "suffering a mental health crisis."

Following protocol, staff "quickly alerted mental health counselors and the NY State Police."

That quick response may have saved lives.

The NY State Police during their welfare check became aware of a weapon and informed the school. We are thankful to the NYS Police and our staff members of their immediate action and response.

Superintendent Bennett clarified, "At no time in our building was a weapon displayed ora threat to use a weapon to any student or staff member was made."

All of our District protocols were followed and our 270 students and 80 staff members were kept safe. The educational process was not interrupted. Our District Safety Team met soon after the events to review our response efforts.

Arrested and Charged

According to reports, the student was at home when police conducted their investigation and later discovered the weapon.

Photo Credit: Benjamin Furner, WIBX / Townsquare Media
Photo Credit: Benjamin Furner, WIBX / Townsquare Media

Because the firearm was taken on school grounds, the juvenile was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a weapon, as well as criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds.

The juvenile was sent for a mental health evaluation and investigators have since applied for an extreme risk protection order.

Superintendent Bennett reiterated the district's commitment to keeping all students safe and that he understands that "parents, staff and community members want to know every detail."

At this time, only so much information has been disclosed.

Said the superintendent:

We understand the anguish and disbelief associated with these events and want to take this time to assure you that we will continue to work to improve our safety measures and policies to ensure your students are always safe in this building. We continue to work to improve our communication standards as best we can while still maintaining the confidentiality needed during ongoing investigations.

Again, this is a developing story and more information should be released pending an investigation.


Personal Take

To be fully transparent, my mom was an assistant principal and was working as a school administrator in Connecticut when Sandy Hook happened.

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John Moore, Getty Images

Sandy Hook changed everything and schools had to rapidly adjust to ensure the safety of their students amid a surge of gun violence incidents.

I can assure you each and every teacher has thought about what they'd do if a shooter entered their building and are prepared for the possibility that they could die on the job.

That is why every school has a protocol that was developed by a team of experts, who work in mental health, law enforcement, legal, and child development, should a dangerous situation happen on campus. That plan is designed to protect students and staff - as well as the student who may be having a mental health crisis.

Schools also cannot search a student without just cause, because otherwise that is an invasion of privacy. As Superintendent Bennett explained, the student in this situation never displayed a weapon nor did they make a threat against any student or staff members, which meant staff didn't have enough probable cause to search the student's locker or bag.

Schools have to walk a very fine line, which is why so many people are consulted when protocols are developed for these difficult scenarios. They map out what to do when a potential threat is detected, who to call, and how to mitigate the situation.

In the end, the protocol at Schenevus Central worked. Staff responded quickly and followed protocol. The student was intercepted and no one was hurt.

Read that again: no one was hurt.

The student is now getting the help they need, but they are also going to have to answer for their actions.

The school now has to work on protecting the student's privacy and will use this situation to improve the protocol they only have in place. Schools don't have crystal balls, even though they wish they did.

As for parents complaining about not knowing about the situation as it unfolded in real time, the reason why schools cannot do that is because that would spark panic. They don't want parents jumping into their cars and rushing to school - the only people they want doing that are police officers and those trained to handle these situations on a professional level.

If a bunch of panicked parents descended on a school building, it could cause confusion and potentially interfere with police.

My sincerest sympathies are to those parents who have had their world rocked this week. I know you are going to hold your children a little tighter. I also know you are going to be very angry this happened in the first place.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Instead of directing your ire at the school district, which followed a protocol they had in place and it produced an ending that resulted in 0 injuries or lives lost, direct it at our local lawmakers and demand change.

What can people who can change laws do to ensure our schools are secure and guns don't wind up in the wrong hands?

In a time where teachers are heading into work wondering if today will be the day a shooter enters their building, the community should be outraged that educators even have to prepare themselves for life or death situations.

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