Central Pa. schools dealing with gun rumors in wake of Sandy Hook tragedy

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

School districts and police departments across Pennsylvania have been investigating rumors of guns being brought to schools and other threats of violence, in the week following the horrific murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

Friday, a student at McCaskey East High School in Lancaster was charged with disorderly conduct after investigators said he texted a student at another school to say that he’d been a victim of a shooting at McCaskey, which was untrue.

School districts across Central Pennsylvania have been dealing with similar issues all week.

“We’ve had a couple of scares in the past. We had something of concern today with a shooting and of course I was worried,” said Janeen Mengel, a mother of two teenagers in West Lawn, Pa.

The vast majority of the rumors have been unfounded, but as Hempfield School Superintendent Dr. Brenda Becker explained, each one must be taken seriously.

“We’re on call 24-7. Last night, I was making phone calls at 11 o’clock at night to some of our folks so that we were prepared for today. There’s nothing that we will not do,” Becker said.

The rumors are circulating through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and also through texting. But school districts are also using this same technology to get the right information out to parents quickly and dispel the rumors.

Hempfield, as with several other area school districts did have officers patrol around the schools more frequently and made sure all entrances to schools were locked and secure.

“Anxieties are high to begin with and we understand that,” Becker said. “We’re very sensitive to that, and we’re also not trying to overreact.”

Mengel said she’s pleased with how her children’s school handled the possible threat there.

“They went through a lockdown drill of sorts today, so they’re pretty confident that should something happen, which we hope nothing will, that they’ll be taken care of and they know what to do,” she said.

The Hempfield School District has a school safety forum planned for Thursday, January 10, at 7 p.m. at Hempfield High School. All three police chiefs who serve the Hempfield area will be there to address parents’ concerns.