Parents seek answers about lockdown at Phineas Davis Elementary

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Parents, students and other community members grilled York school officials Monday on the circumstances surrounding last week’s lockdown at Phineas Davis Elementary, wanting to know why a parent who’d been arrested on Wednesday at the school was able to get back into the school a day later.

York City Police Chief Wes Kahley said officers arrested Eric Schelmety Wednesday after he came to the school to complain about his child being bullied. The situation escalated, Kahley said, to the point that Schelmety threatened to kill kids at the school.

Police arrested Schelmety, charging him with making terroristic threats. His bail was set at $1,500, but Kahley said Schelmety need only 5 percent, or $75, to get out of prison. Kahley said the arresting officer sought a higher bail.

“If we’re truly going to be talking hard about making sure our children are safe in our schools, then we need to take a truly hard look at what occurred here,” said Kahley.

The police chief added his department was not notified Schelmety made bail Thursday. Kahley said Schelmety was back at Phineas Davis within an hour. Police say when he returned, Schelmety had a violent outburst, damaging things in the lobby. School officials initiated a lockdown. Police arrived and were able to arrest Schelmety again without any students getting hurt.

“And, this is a perfect example of why things need to be changed. It could have been a lot  worse than what it was,” said Kahley.

Schelmety now faces additional felony charges, including institutional vandalism and intentionally damaging property. After the second arrest, his bail was set at $500,000, according to court records.

Chief Kahley and school Superintendent Dr. Eric Holmes met with parents Monday at the school to provide information about what happened last week and respond to concerns.

“I know he’s in prison. He’ll be there for a while. I just wanted to make sure that everything is still safe in the school,” said Kristie Tomes, a parent.

Holmes said the school’s security protocols were followed, but that district leaders also are reviewing what happened to see if improvements can be made.

“You can always improve upon anything. But, we were very pleased with how the situation worked out because everyone cooperated,” said Holmes.

Parents questioned why the district didn’t notify them about what happened Wednesday. Holmes said the school attempted to send a letter home with kids to explain the incident, but by that time Schelmety had returned to the school. Holmes said the district also had not been notified Schelmety had made bail.

Kahley said state legislators may need to step in to address some of the issues this case has raised, such as Schelmety’s bond amount and the lack of notification that Schelmety was out of prison.

Faith Nance, a parent of kids at Phineas Davis, also called on school leaders to better address the issue that brought Schelmety to the school in the first place: bullying.

“(Kids) shouldn’t have to be afraid to come to school,” said Nance.  “At home it’s our job as parents, grandparents and caregivers to protect our child. And then, when they’re at school, then they’re in their hands. So, we should feel rest assured.”