Two York County lawmakers have introduced legislation that would alter the way courts and law-enforcement agencies handle violent threats against schools.
House Bill 2351 would upgrade terroristic threats against a school from first-degree misdemeanors to third-degree felonies and move such cases from the jurisdiction of district magistrates to the Court of Common Pleas.
The bill would also require the jail or prison facility holding the defendant to notify the arresting law-enforcement agency when the defendant posts bail.
Then, law enforcement would be required to notify the educational facility that the defendant posted bail. As defined in the legislation, an educational facility is any public, private, vocational or higher-education school.
State Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, and state Rep. Mike Regan, R-Carroll Township, are the bill's co-sponsors.
The proposal, which was referred to the House Judiciary Committee in June, is not "a silver bullet" for preventing violence, Schreiber said.
But, he said, if it had been in effect months ago, "The Phineas Davis incident may have been prevented."
Schreiber was referencing a February incident when the father of a York City School District student allegedly threatened to kill people at the K-8 school and then returned the next day in a violent rage.
Eric Schelmety had been arrested Feb. 26 after he allegedly went to the school at 300 S. Ogontz St. and threatened to "murder and shoot" people inside the school.
He was charged with a third-degree felony charge of making terroristic threats and misdemeanor disorderly conduct, records state.
A judge set Schelmety's bail at $1,500. The next day, he was released from York County Prison at 2:48 p.m. after posting $75 bail, authorities said. Less than 90 minutes later, he was back at the school.
Police rushed to the school for a report of gunfire, but a gun was never found.
When officers arrived at the school, they found Schelmety in the lobby, smashing windows in an attempt to get into the school office, according to charging documents.
He allegedly broke windows, destroyed light fixtures, ripped items off the walls and yelled threats, documents state, including "I'm going to kill all the students in school ... everybody!"
As this was going on, students and office personnel took cover under desks in the office, according to police.
Schelmety, 30, of 1127 E. King St., is charged with making terroristic threats, ethnic intimidation, institutional vandalism, reckless endangerment, defiant trespass and criminal mischief.
At a meeting with parents after the incident, York City Police Chief Wes Kahley said he intended to ask local legislators to consider changing the law so that suspects accused of threatening children in a school are less likely to be released so quickly.
Schreiber and Regan have scheduled a press conference about the bill for 9 a.m. Monday on the steps of York City Hall, 101 S. George St.
They will be joined by Kahley, York City School District Superintendent Eric Holmes and York City Mayor Kim Bracey.
— Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.