Perry County parents voice concern over notification about November “kill list”

SPRING TOWNSHIP, P.A. -- Authorities in Perry County announced 34 terroristic threat charges against a 14-year old boy Tuesday after they say he made a "kill list" of 24 students and 10 faculty members on a school computer.

Pennsylvania State Police in Newport say they began investigating the alleged threat list in November 2017.

Some parents say, however, they didn't know there was an investigation going on until the end of the last week.

One parent wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday that they were notified by the Victims Unit of the Perry County District Attorney's Office on Friday, February 16, three months after the investigation started.

Dean Cless, a parent to a West Perry Middle schooler, said he believes the school district could've handled the situation better by keeping parents in the loop.

"Parents should've been told right away about the situation. We want nothing happening like what happened in Florida last week," said Cless.

However, Trooper Brent Miller with State Police said these investigations aren't a quick turnaround.

"These things do take time. First and foremost is to make sure there's not an imminent danger to the public or community or that these threats can be carried out," said Trooper Miller.

He also said they investigated the nature of the threat list and determined the student did not have the resources to carry about a threat.

"Then, we can dig in more as to why that threat was made," said Miller.

Some parents say they were told by law enforcement the investigation was finished in December and still had not heard from the West Perry School District.

A letter sent by West Perry Superintendent Dr. Michael O'Brien says the school district worked collaboratively with law enforcement to identify, determine and take action against the threat in November.

It also states they were notified on February 9 by Perry County District Attorney Andrew Bender that the people listed in the threat would be notified as victims according to Pennsylvania law.

Perry County District Attorney Andrew Bender issued the following statement: "...it was brought to my attention recently that parents were not aware of the investigation.  I felt they needed to know about the situation, and that they had a right to know about the pending charges under Pennsylvania law.  Therefore, the decision was made to notify them...When dealing with these situations the primary concern is determining if there is an immediate danger to anyone.  Once the police make a determination that there is not a threat to the school or community, the focus of the investigation turns to determining if any crimes have been committed.  That determination resulted in Terroristic Threats and Harassment charges being filed in this case."

On the West Perry School District website, it defines a terroristic threat and explains the district policy on handling such threats.

One policy states: "The superintendent or designee shall notify the parent or guardian of any student directly involved in an incident involving a terroristic threat as a victim or suspect immediately, as soon as practible..."

It goes on to say they shall inform parents or guardians if law enforcement has been notified and document attempts to reach parents or guardians.

A concern for parents is if that policy was followed, appropriately.

Dr. O'Brien said, as of Wednesday afternoon, the district had been in communication with parents all day about the incident.

He said he would not get into the specifics on the decision in regards to when parents were notified of the threat.

He said any parents with concerns can call his office, directly.