John Lewis Childs School evacuated after threat: police

Brandon Duffy
Floral Park's John Lewis Childs School was subject to two threats earlier in the week, one of which leading to an evacuation Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Two threats against John Lewis Childs School in Floral Park were made on Sunday and Monday, with one resulting in a full evacuation, officials said.

Floral Park Police Commissioner Stephen McCallister said during Monday’s Floral-Park Bellerose Board of Education meeting the first threat on Sunday was a text message being passed around by students.

McCallister told the over 100 attendees, mainly on Zoom, that authorities identified the potential author of the text message, went to the child’s house and were able to determine the child was not a behavioral problem and that no weapons were available in the home. McAllister advised district Superintendent Kathleen Sottile that the threat was not credible and classes were held the following day.

Criminal charges have not been filed due to the age of the potential author, McAllister said.

In the second incident, around 11:30 a.m. Monday an index card was found in a bathroom with scribbling that referred to a classroom shooting and a potential bomb threat in the library.

The children were evacuated from the school with the help of officers, and McCallister said an investigation found that the threat was not credible.

The person responsible for the index card has not been identified. Sottile said if a student is found to be responsible, he or she will be subject to discipline.

Both incidents took place in the days leading to the nine-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. Sottile said the information sent to parents regarding the evacuation was purposely limited in order to prevent a potential copycat situation.

McAllister assured parents that it is safe to send their children to school. He emphasized that the entire building was searched and it was deemed safe.

“There is no credible threat to anyone’s safety in the school,” McAllister said. “I can safely say that.”

Many parents questioned the communication and transparency of the school.

Victoria Maclean, a parent with three children in the district, said information on future incidents should be relayed to families more consistently.

“There were lacking details and there seems to be a common issue here with a lack of transparency,” Maclean said. “While everyone has varying beliefs I think there should be transparency … whether that’s with these emergency situations or anything else.”

Geraldine Grant, a mother in the district, said she did not feel comfortable with her children attending class Monday based on the information she received.

“I did not send my children to school Monday because I did not feel it was safe based on what I was hearing from multiple sources,” Grant said. “I feel that more information should have been provided to the parents.”

McAllister and Sottile answered all questions at the end of the public portion of the meeting and said the district was selective with certain information on purpose. Safety of the students during the evacuation was at the forefront of everyone’s priorities, McAllister said, and sending information to hundreds of parents would be handled later. Additionally, certain information was hidden to prevent any potential attackers from becoming aware of the evacuation route.

Sottile said that the district will meet with the Police Department in the coming days to go over the response and protocols of both situations.

“We take all of your concerns seriously,” Sottile said before adjourning.

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