All Windham and Raymond schools will remain closed Tuesday as local police and a state police computer crimes task force investigate two threatening email messages that prompted Regional School Unit 14 to send thousands of students home early on Monday.

The superintendent and a principal from RSU 14 opened their email accounts Monday morning to find messages threatening Windham-Raymond schools, prompting the head of the district to send all 3,300 students home less than two hours after classes started.

Windham police and school officials would not release the contents of the email messages, but their response was clearly unusual. Threats targeting schools more often lead to the closure of an individual school and do not typically last more than a day. School officials are not ruling out canceling classes on Wednesday as well.

“The difference here is that they never targeted a particular school,” Superintendent Sandy Prince said of the emails. “We just didn’t know what school” was being targeted.

Prince posted a statement Monday night on the RSU 14 website explaining why classes will be canceled on Tuesday.

“After reviewing the situation with law enforcement, we have mutually decided to allow more time for the investigation to proceed; thus all schools will be closed tomorrow, Dec. 16,” Prince wrote.

The incident began Monday morning when Prince said he received an “alarming” email. He would not elaborate, except to say that the email made a specific threat – one he considered more serious than receiving a bomb threat over the phone – although it didn’t name a building in the district.

Prince contacted the school resource officer, who was aware of another email containing threats to the district that was received by Windham Middle School Principal Charlie Haddock.

The two emails were not identical and came from two different sources, according to Windham police Lt. James Boudreau.

In a press release, Boudreau said police met with school officials “and it was decided that students would be sent home for the day, to ensure their safety.”

“The investigation is ongoing at this time, and no additional information will be released until that investigation is completed,” Boudreau said.

Windham police are working with the Maine Computer Crimes Task Force, a unit of the Maine State Police, to identify the sources of the emails.

“The task force is looking into the origin of the emails,” Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, confirmed Monday night.

After the decision was made to send students home from the district’s six schools, all doors to the buildings were automatically locked – something made possible by recent upgrades – and a message was sent to parents by phone and email through the district’s communications software notifying them of the threats and the early release.

Prince said it’s unusual for a threat of violence to affect an entire district, but that procedures were in place to respond to the situation.

“We all have roles and responsibilities that are identified,” he said.

Although weather conditions can similarly cause the school district to release all students early, one major difference in dealing with Monday’s threats was how quickly the process happened, he said.

“We’ve practiced this, and I think it went exceptionally well,” said Prince.

Parents responded positively to the district’s handling of the situation.

Duane and Laurie Dumont of Windham have two children in the school system. Their 11-year-old daughter attends middle school and their 8-year-son is in elementary school.

Duane Dumont said they learned Monday night about classes being canceled for a second consecutive day.

“If that is what the police need to find out who did this, then I am fine with that,” Dumont said. “With everything that is going on in the world, erring on the side of caution is a good thing.”

He described the lines of communication between the schools and parents on Monday as “magnificent.” He said parents have been kept apprised of the situation through text messages, emails and voice mail messages.

Parents picking up students at Windham Primary School on Monday, though somewhat shaken by the threat to their children, also seemed pleased with the school’s response.

“I was so nervous,” said Martha Jefferson, who was feeling sick and had gone back to bed only to wake up to an email from the school. Her son, a seventh-grader, soon sent her a text message saying he was safe and taking the bus home, so she went to pick up her 6-year-old daughter from Windham Primary.

Charlie Larkin, a pharmacy student at the University of New England who recently finished his semester, was out grocery shopping when his wife got the call from their children’s school.

“I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, but I’m glad the school system decided to be careful,” said Larkin, as he walked out of Windham Primary with Ian, 7, and Breanna, 5.

Students at the high school and two middle schools were bused home first, at 9:15 a.m., followed by the Raymond Elementary Schools students an hour later and students from Windham’s two elementary schools a half-hour after that.

If no one was there when the buses arrived at the homes of the elementary school students, the children were taken back to the transportation department on Windham Center Road, though not many had to be.

When asked whether classes would be held Wednesday, Prince replied, “We are going to take it one day at a time.”

He said it is probable that classes will have to be extended by at least two days – the equivalent of two snow days – when the school year ends next June.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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