Community exhales as Central York students back to school
Buses full of students arrived at Central York schools Monday morning as the district tried to return to normalcy following threats that led to school closures last week.
At a Sunday-night news conference, Springettsbury Township Police Chief Dan Stump said a middle school student admitted to making the threats, and he said the student did so because she didn’t want to go to school.
The student will be charged with making terroristic threats, he said.
The announcement came at a 9:30 p.m. news conference, 5 1/2 hours after a briefing in which Stump and the district superintendent said classes would resume Monday, Feb. 26, even as the investigation continued.
District administrators canceled classes Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as police investigated.
Linda Veras-Lopez, who has a son in Central York Middle School and a son and daughter in Sinking Springs Elementary School, said she wasn't planning on sending her kids to school before police announced an end to the investigation.
She said she's had nightmares during the ordeal, and her children barely slept.
"It feels like a huge rock has been lifted off me," Veras-Lopez said, noting that she still feels she will live with a certain amount of fear going forward.
Bill Graves, whose son and daughter attend Roundtown Elementary School, said he was just happy his kids were back in school.
He said he and his wife, who works as a music teacher at the school, were mostly frustrated at the whole ordeal, but appreciated the hard work displayed by police and investigators.
"I'm not one to worry much, but even driving home (Sunday) night, I saw an officer outside the school," Graves said. "It's comforting to know there will be increased security."
Central students were welcomed back with increased safety measures, including a boost in police presence and the prohibition of backpacks. Those district will be taking those same measures Tuesday, Feb. 27, as well.
Graves said it was difficult for him to talk to his children about why they haven't had school and why they couldn't bring backpacks Monday in a way that would prevent them from being too scared.
"I kept (the conversation) very vague, just telling them someone wanted to scare people," he said.
Kelley Gibson, whose daughters attend North Hills and Stony Brook elementary schools, said she didn't see the notice and sent her daughters to school with full backpacks.
One of her daughters messaged her while riding on the bus and seeing other children without backpacks, she said.
Gibson said she messaged her daughters' teachers to apologize but hasn't heard anything back.
Gibson said the conversations she's had with her daughters since the investigation into threats was first announced have been scary, but necessary.
When she first heard about the threats to Central York High School, Gibson said she didn't think it would affect her daughters, but by the time the threats trickled down to the whole district, her daughters were hearing rumors about a hunter coming through the woods to hurt them.
Gibson said she believes the response to these threats will turn into a positive for the district as most schools only increase security measures on the heels of a tragedy.
Reports of threats at Central York and other school districts in the county come on the heels of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and staff were killed Feb. 14.
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are scheduled to return to school on Wednesday, Feb. 28.
Graves said instances such as those in Florida have become too normalized, and he believes changes to discipline and technology are necessary to prevent them from continuing to happen.
GIbson said she thinks the solution needs to be some combination of securing schools to keep weapons out and increasing regulations on who can own firearms and what type of firearms people can access.
A former adjunct professor at York College of Pennsylvania, Gibson said she doesn't believe the answer is arming teachers — a suggestion made by President Donald Trump and others.
— Reach David Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.