Dover Township elementary school vandalized with graffiti

Chief: 'Potential' South Western school threat not credible

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

Penn Township's police chief said he felt it was important for parents of South Western students to see officers as they dropped off students for school this week because of a potential threat directed toward Emory H. Markle Intermediate School.

"I want parents to know we're aware of what's going on and are working directly with the school district," Chief Jim Laughlin said. "We have a great working relationship."

LOGO police fire

Laughlin said Penn Township's officers make it a priority to be at South Western School District's schools every school day.

"But today, we showed our presence a little more than usual," he said Monday, Feb. 19.

And it wasn't just concerned parents who officers were trying to calm.

"We wanted to reassure the students," Laughlin said, " and cut down on their anxiety."

He said his department has increased patrols at the intermediate school this week after learning of what he and South Western School Superintendent Jay Burkhart called a "potential threat."

In a joint statement sent to parents and guardians Sunday, Feb. 18, Laughlin and Burkhart said the potential threat isn't credible.

Social media posts: "We had some juveniles who were making some threats on social media toward the school," Laughlin told The York Dispatch. "It wasn't exactly a direct threat — it was stuff they said they wanted to do."

"Penn Township Police Chief Jim Laughlin serves on a panel of law enforcement personnel that included York City Police Chief Wes Kahley during a public hearing \"Heroin and Opioid Addiction, Treatment and Recovery\" at the Yorktowne Hotel Tuesday, August 18, 2015. The hearing was sponsored by Rural Pennsylvania, a legislative agency of the state general assembly. Bill Kalina -"

The juveniles were communicating with each other on social media, according to the chief.

"It does not appear to be a credible threat at this time," he said.

Officers have identified those juveniles and are in contact with them and their parents, Laughlin confirmed.

"Nothing is being dismissed," he said. "Everything is being looked at. ... The bottom line is, it's about the safety of the kids who want to come to school and learn."

The chief acknowledged the community's concerns are likely heightened in the wake of the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen students and teachers were killed.

"I think it's on everybody's mind," he said.

'Visible' presence: Laughlin said he and Burkhart were in contact throughout much of the day Sunday and crafted the joint statement together.

South Western School District Superintendent Jay Burkhart

"(In) an effort to be diligent and reassure our students, there will be a visible and increased presence of our police force at the (intermediate school and high school) tomorrow, and longer if necessary," the statement reads. "The patrols will include officers, at times, circulating in the buildings."

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South Western School District's central-office administration team also will be in the intermediate and high schools on Monday "to support the students and the staff," the statement reads.

It states that police and the district "remain relentless in our dedication to a safe learning environment."

It asks families to "remain diligent" in reporting any and all concerning behavior.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.