Parents question handling of threat at Erving Elementary School

Erving Elementary School.

Erving Elementary School. STAFF FILE PHOTO

By MAX BOWEN

Athol Daily News Editor

Published: 04-24-2024 4:51 PM

Modified: 04-24-2024 7:23 PM


ERVING — Following a report of a threat that involved an Erving Elementary School student, parents questioned the School Committee on Tuesday about what can be done in light of concerns over the administration’s response.

According to a joint statement issued Tuesday by Erving Police Chief Robert Holst and Erving School Union 28 Superintendent Jennifer Culkeen, the school administration became aware of the threat on Monday, April 22. The threat apparently occurred prior to school vacation in April and continued over the vacation week. Action was taken by the school Monday morning when students began to arrive back to school and the matter was investigated by Police Sgt. Adam Paicos.

Police and school officials have not disclosed the nature of the threat.

“Our primary concern is to maintain the safety of everyone in the community,” the statement read. “It is vital that everyone understand that if you see something please say something.”

At the School Committee meeting Tuesday, Holst said that the situation is being resolved and it is safe at the school. During the meeting, Culkeen did not offer any comment, saying she wouldn’t discuss personnel matters.

During the meeting, a public comment period was held, but no one spoke. A short time later, someone asked to speak on the threat and the committee permitted it. The speaker, who did not identify himself, asked about the school’s procedure for these matters.

“There’s no clarity on what should happen,” the man said. “What is the law on these situations? If there is a specific law about these, are we following the law?”

School Committee member Katelyn Mailloux-Little said there is a bullying policy in the student handbook. According to the handbook, written in the 2021-2022 school year, “reports of bullying or retaliation may be made by staff, students, parents or guardians, or others, and may be oral or written.”

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The man who spoke told the committee that they had gone through the policy after their child was punched last year, and found nothing regarding this type of situation. He added that parents feel a need to have a forum to discuss these matters and that it’s important to let them connect with the school.

“This is one of those things you never think about until it’s closer and you feel the burn of it, and then you think, ‘How are we actually safe?’” he said. “The doors are locked — that’s about it. So I started thinking, ‘How do we make sure our kids are actually safe?’ and I couldn’t answer that and I couldn’t answer that for any school.”

Another person in the audience commented that some parents found out about the threat this month through a statement made on the website ClassDojo.com. Another asked if they could file a request to put Erving Elementary interim Principal David Krane on leave while the investigation is ongoing.

Holst went before the committee later in the meeting to explain how these incidents are handled. He encouraged those present to call the school administration or the 24-hour police dispatch number, 413-625-8200 or 911, and not email or call the cellphones of the officers.

He said that the laws are very different when juveniles are involved, one being that the police cannot criminally charge someone under the age of 12. Another is that if a bag or locker needs to be searched, the schools have their own policies to do this, which Holst said can be faster than getting the warrant that police need for such searches. He added that social media “can be brutal,” and encouraged parents to avoid the back-and-forth discussions and report these matters.

“I am not going to stand up here and say Erving is safe — I can’t do that,” Holst said. “It is the goal of the police department to provide a safe community. We do everything in our power to make it safe. There’s some things that are outside of our power that we just can’t control.”

Max Bowen can be reached at mbowen@recorder.com or 413-930-4074.