December 20, 2012

Police: Threat to Maine schools 'baseless'

They only found evidence of baseless rumors, they say, but some districts are still enhancing their officer presence Friday.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Several districts followed Sharp on Wednesday and Thursday with their own letters to parents about the potential threat.

Despite the outcome of the investigation, Shepard said Thursday that the plan still called for more officers at Gorham schools "just because."

Officials from school districts elsewhere, including Westbrook, Portland, Kennebunk and Cumberland, also have said they will stick with their plans to have increased police presence.

Kenneth Trump, president of Ohio-based National School Safety and Security Services, said threats made after a school safety incident like the one in Connecticut are "an unfortunate, common phenomenon."

He said he has heard of "a good number" of threats made throughout the country in the past week, and he wouldn't be surprised if hundreds had been made.

Part of the reason, he said, is that there's a "heightened awareness by people to report threats that they hear and see," and those threats are taken seriously.

He said most are unfounded and are usually the result of poor decisions by young people who want attention or think they're making off-handed comments, and they don't understand the consequences.

But sometimes, he said, an incident like the Connecticut school shootings puts someone with mental health problems "over the top."

Facebook posts from parents in southern Maine on Thursday showed that levels of fear about the rumored message varied.

Before police said there was no threat, some parents posted that they were confident that it was a hoax. Others said they would take their kids out of school for the rest of the week.

Liana Richardson, a senior at Gorham High School, said her mother isn't letting her go to school on Friday, even though police don't believe there's a threat.

"Not worth the risk, I guess," she said.

Spencer LaPierre, another Gorham High senior, said students and teachers don't seem too concerned about anything happening at the school.

"I'm pretty sure parents are more worried," he said.

Trump said parents should not be scared to send their children to school.

"The reality is, the days ahead are going to be the safest days in American schools because of the heightened attention" to security, he said.

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

lbridgers@pressherald.com

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