Gloversville school district received 2 online threats, others impacted by posts

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Saratoga County Sheriff patrol cars are parked outside Galway Junior/Senior High School on Dec. 17, 2021.

While recent threats against schools across the region and nation sparked concern, classes were held as normal on Friday in the Gloversville Central School District after officials determined two online threats were unfounded. 

Posts circulating on the popular social media app TikTok suggested school shootings would take place nationally on Friday. The alleged threats came just over two weeks after a shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan left four students dead. Those posts and others on different social media platforms had the following impacts locally:

Some districts received unfounded threats:

  • Schenectady City School District placed Oneida Middle School into lockout, following an unfounded threat posted on social media platform Snapchat.

  • Gloversville Central School District received two unfounded threats online. 

Other districts saw an increase in absences on Friday:

  • Shenendehowa Central School District had 38 teachers who called out. 

  • Mohonasen Central School District had lower attendance at two of its schools; 27% of students were absent at Pinewood Elementary School, while nearly 21% of students did not attend classes at Draper Middle School.

A handful of school districts even decided to cancel in-person learning for the day or close school altogether:

  • Galway Central School District canceled school Friday after a door to one of the schools was open when faculty arrived for work. Following an investigation, police determined that an intruder, unrelated to trending social media posts, had broken into the building.

  • Averill Park Central School District canceled school Friday out of an abundance of caution after discovering an unfounded threat against the school Thursday.

  • Whitehall Central School District made a decision Thursday to go all-virtual in light of the online posts regarding school violence. 

In addition to larger numbers of students being absent, concerns about the threats also led to larger police presences at area schools.

Gloversville Superintendent David Halloran said the district never came close to closing. 

“That was never part of the conversation. I never discussed that notion with anybody because it never even came close to that point,” Halloran said.  

Still, some parents and students were clearly spooked, because Halloran said the district-wide attendance percentage was in the mid 70s Friday, compared to being in the 90s on a typical day. 

Halloran said while he can understand some level of concern in an era of school shootings and other attacks, he was disappointed that so many students stayed home even after the district deemed the situation safe. 

“This is disappointing. It is our challenge in the best of times to keep children in the building. Students need to be in school to be successful, and it sends a message that people don’t value what we’re selling here, and that’s unfortunate because we’re selling futures, we’re building a better tomorrow for the students in this district, and they need to be here in order to participate in that.”

In the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District, attendance was down about 5% to 10%, according to Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson. 

The district didn’t receive any direct threats, but about five students shared potentially threatening posts that hinted it may not be safe to come to school on Friday, according to Tomlinson. 

“It only takes one [post] that gets shared and then it creates that panic,” Tomlinson said. But, as in Gloversville, Broadalbin-Perth didn’t close schools because the postings weren’t seen as serious threats, Tomlinson said. 

“With the support and agreement from law enforcement, we don’t see any possibility of unsafe conditions in our school system,” he said.

Mayfield Central School District was also impacted by non-specific threats.

“Mayfield schools were absolutely affected,” said Betsy DeMars, a district spokesperson. “A number of students didn’t come, some got picked up early, and parents were calling the schools about it. So, yes, it absolutely had an impact today.”

The day went on as normal for students in the Greater Amsterdam School District with the exception of a larger police presence in its buildings.  

The district was recently subject to a pair of threats via social media that were ultimately determined to not be credible by law enforcement. Superintendent Richard Ruberti said in each instance those responsible were identified by police within roughly an hour and criminal charges were filed.

Many other districts in Montgomery County did not have any messages on their websites related to the unfounded threats circulating social media or state whether a larger police presence were at any of the schools.

Other schools in the greater Capital Region faced similar situations to those in Montgomery and Fulton counties. 

In Scotia-Glenville, students at both the middle and high schools were greeted Friday morning by police officers stationed outside the two facilities. Other districts throughout Schenectady County also had additional officers present on school grounds Friday.

In the Mohonasen Central School District, the number of students that were absent was very noticeable. There are about 630 students in each building, said Superintendent Shannon Shine. However, on Friday, 170 students did not attend Pinewood Elementary School, while 130 did not show up for class at Draper Elementary.

Niskayuna saw a similar situation with absences, said Matt Leon, the district spokesperson.

Reporter Andrew Waite contributed to this story.

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