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After Pittsburgh-Area School Districts Respond To Threats, Administrators Left Wondering What They Can Do

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- At least six local school districts recently had to respond to some form of threat, leaving administrators wondering what they can do.

One of those threats was made at Woodland Hills High School, where students learned online on Thursday and Friday due to safety concerns.

recent threats
(Photo Credit: KDKA)

"Someone saw that a student said I'm going to bring a gun into the school. A Glock. Quote, unquote," Woodland Hills School District Superintendent James Harris said.

Harris said he took appropriate measures. Police scoured the building Wednesday and provided extra security. And for the past two days, students stayed home and teachers here taught online.

"We took a couple of days after the initial threat that came to the high school to help calm things down, also to revamp our safety plan at the high school," he said.

But the supposed threat was determined to be unfounded. State police were able to identify the student in question, examined their phone, and found no mention of bringing a gun to school. But ever since fights broke out at the high school last week, the district has been uneasy.

KDKA's Andy Sheehan: This is basically just a rumor that had a life of its own?
Harris: Yes. And I know because of the heightened awareness of the fights from Wednesday, everyone's on edge. We all are. So we took it seriously.

The shutdown follows a similar action in the Ringgold School District earlier this week, and at a half dozen other local districts this month that have either canceled classes or ramped up security in the face of threats — most of which were determined not to be real.

A supposed threat against Central Catholic High School actually involved another school called Central in Minnesota. And police in North Versailles found a threat to the East Allegheny School District to be unfounded.

But districts say they need to err on the side of caution and act as if the threats are credible until they're proven not to be. Still, they don't want to be played by students who make anonymous calls or online posts just to get a day off.

"This seems to be a trend in a lot of places, especially around test time when students want to get out. When parents were picking up their kids the other day, we heard kids laughing, 'Hey, next time we need to do this earlier so we don't have to come to school,'" Harris said.

Harris and local police say they plan to investigate very quickly to determine if any threat is credible, just a hoax, or a rumor that's gotten out of control. They'd like to avoid these kinds of major disruptions in the school week.

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