DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

January 23, 2014

Parents upset with potential threat at Pinkerton


Derry News

---- — DERRY — Some Pinkerton parents were unhappy to learn of a potential weapon threat on the high school campus last week.

That included finding out more about what happened from Facebook than from the school itself.

Derry police were called to the high school on Jan. 14 at 1:51 p.m. last Tuesday, Capt. Vern Thomas said, to deal with a report that a student was “possibly in possession of a firearm,” Thomas said in a written release soon after the incident.

Police and school administrators located the student in question and found him to be unarmed, police said.

Police determined the information that prompted the call was incorrect and there was no threat.

“No charges are expected to be filed and the investigation has been closed,” Thomas wrote.

But many questioned the school’s response, the lack of a lockdown, and the fact there was no notification to parents or students.

Parents also said their children attending Pinkerton didn’t know about what happened until they were off campus that day.

Pinkerton spokesman Chip Underhill said the information the school received was about a specific student. He said the school resource officer wasn’t on campus at the time, so Derry police were called.

Undershill stressed how quickly the situation was resolved.

“Upon receiving the information, we followed safety protocol by immediately contacting the Derry Police Department, which quickly responded, quickly determined the student in question had no weapon, and quickly determined there was no threat,” he said.

Had police determined the information was credible, “additional steps would have been taken,” he said.

Asked why the school didn’t go in to lockdown and about the protocol for such situations, Underhill said the time of day — when students were being dismissed — factored in.

Police supported the school’s decision.

“The school did everything they needed to do,” Thomas said when contacted Friday. “We had a student under our supervision as soon as we got there.”

He said no discussion of lockdown protocol was warranted in this instance.

But some parents questioned that response, particularly given there was a school shooting last week at a middle school in Roswell, N.M.

“Are you kidding me? My daughter did tell me a student was handcuffed, but had no clue why,” Stephanie Tsepas wrote on Facebook. “Sad that we as Pinkerton parents had to find out about this on Facebook!”

Kim Witkum echoed that reaction.

“And as a parent of a student there, why am I hearing about this on Facebook and not from the school?” she wrote.

Some people thought the school’s response was appropriate.

“Better to be safe then sorry,” Joseph Ferland wrote. “(The) general public will find something to complain about either way. I’m glad it was looked into, regardless.”

Many also said Pinkerton didn’t release the information about what happened in a timely fashion. Many parents received email notices the following day and the school posted a message on its website, also the day after the incident.

“I”m upset a call was not made,” Andrea Crowell wrote. “They have the ability to make mass calls and a situation like this warranted it.”

School staff members are always concerned when there is any report a student might have a weapon, Underhill said.

Because the information was found not to be credible, he said, no further steps were necessary.

Headmaster Mary Anderson said the school is always working to make safety better for students and the Pinkerton community.

“We continually evaluate events and situations and we regularly enhance our safety and communication procedures as a result,” she said. “The incident was managed according to our well-defined safety protocol, however, each situation has unique circumstances which are individually assessed. That assessment and other safety considerations are confidential in the interests of protecting our students.”

Thomas said the school did it right.

“It was handled exactly the way it should have been handled,” he said.