Gordon Chibroski photo/Press Herald

SOUTH PORTLAND — South Portland High School students were sent home early on Monday, May 23 after a threat to the school.  

The high school was in shelter-in-place until 11:36 a.m., but students were sent home so officials could investigate the alleged threat, said South Portland High School Principal Michele LaForge

“There are many ways we investigate incidents of every sort in school, including information shared by students and staff, interviews, data from cameras, routine bathroom checks and logs, looking for patterns, working with law enforcement, and more, “LaForge said. “Full investigations can take time, and since, of course, we do not put cameras in bathrooms, we rely on other methods to investigate incidents that take place in them. In the second case, shelter in place is a procedure that schools and other organizations use when the concern is known and requires a clear hallway (like a medical emergency or chemical spill) or when the concern needs to be evaluated and having clear hallways would be an advantage. That’s what happened on Monday.”   

The investigation revealed a non-specific threat but a threat, nonetheless. LaForge said that the school takes threats very seriously. Every student and staff member had a safe and secure place to hide in the school, but the school needed to investigate the situation that had arisen that morning.

According to LaForge, the decision to send students home was made after consulting with South Portland Superintendent Timothy Matheney and the South Portland Police Department. The high school’s after-school activities, practices, and events were canceled on May 23.  

“We had some graffiti reported in the morning,” LaForge said. “Out of an abundance of caution, and in consultation with our superintendent and local PD, I wanted to take the time we needed to evaluate it fully.”  


Matheney has previously stated that the school department is prepared to file criminal complaints against and possibly expel individuals who look to disrupt the education of their students.   

LaForge sent an update in a letter addressed to parents and families at about 3:45 p.m. The letter stated that students would be attending in-person classes on Tuesday, May 24. LaForge addressed the many rumors that have been going around following the incident.  

“There are many rumors about the incident we are investigating at the high school,” LaForge said. “Please know that the incident did not have anything to do with a fight in a parking lot or a fire extinguisher going off, or someone bringing a knife to school. Rather, we are investigating some graffiti written on the walls of a bathroom.”  

Within the past 30 days, there have been 10 threats throughout Maine, with four of them occurring within the previous week. On May 27, Gray-New Gloucester Middle School evacuated students due to a suspicious note that was located by a student on a bathroom wall. The note indicated that there was a bomb inside the school. It was the second threat made at the middle school in May. No bombs or explosive devices were located, but the incident remains under investigation.

Senator Susan Collins has been meeting with other senators and used a congressional hearing to promote the passage of legislation like Maine’s yellow flag gun law to prevent mass shootings like the massacre that took place on Tuesday. Maine’s yellow flag law took effect back in 2020. 

“The brutal attack on school children and teachers in Uvalde, Texas, is a horrific crime,” Collins said in a statement. “Although we are still waiting for more details, it is hard to believe that someone who would do this was not severely mentally ill. Congress should look at enacting a yellow flag law based on the one we have in Maine, which has due process rights and also involves a medical professional in the decision.” 

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