New bill: harsher penalties for school threats

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Police say that a loophole in the legal system put a York City School in jeopardy back  in February, when a man allegedly threatened to kill students.

House bill 2351 would increase penalties for terroristic threats towards a school, and let schools know if a person who has threatened them is released from jail.

The bill was created by state Rep. Kevin Schreiber (D-York). He held a news conference with police and school officials to discuss the bill on Monday. The bill would make the first offense of threats against a school a felony, instead of a misdemeanor, as it is now.

“This legislation absolutely no silver bullet, but it will strengthen school safety across our commonwealth, and hopefully prevent a situation like this from occurring again,” says Schreiber. “And certainly mitigate any repeat occurrences that may happen.”

Schreiber introduced the bill in reaction to a February incident at Phineas Davis Elementary School. Police say a student’s father, Eric Schelmety, made threats at the school. He was arrested, but released on bail.

90 minutes after his release, police say Schelmety returned to the school, damaging school property in the lobby, and threatening to kill everyone inside.

“Our teachers are out there and they’re there to protect out children,” says York City Police Chief Wes Kahley. “In this case, they did it once more; they put themselves in jeopardy, so we have to do everything we can to make sure we’re protecting the people that are working in our schools.”

The bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee on June 16th, and it has 27 co-sponsors.