Rise to the occasion

Submitted photoThe Lowville Academy gym was used for the high school’s senior prom Saturday after a student received a comment on social media threatening violence at the original venue.

It would have been easy for officials with Lowville Academy and Central School District to cancel the high school’s senior prom Saturday once someone posted a threat of violence against students.

An ex-boyfriend of one of the students made the comment on social media about a half hour after the event began in the Wax House at Snow Ridge Ski Resort in Turin. The individual, a Utica resident, threatened to “shoot up the prom.”

The student discussed the comment with Principal Brian Finn. Lewis County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Leviker was at the event and notified the sheriff’s office.

It’s likely that the young man who posted the violent comment was making an empty threat. But authorities cannot be too cautious under such circumstances; they had an obligation to take it seriously.

Rather than calling the prom off, however, law enforcement agents collaborated with district personnel, chaperones and students to move the prom to the gym of Lowville Academy. Police officials determined they could provide better security at the school facility.

“I brought a couple more people on and set up at the high school,” Lowville Police Chief Randy Roggie said in a story published Tuesday in the Watertown Daily Times. “The sheriff sent some cars, and the State Police sent one, too.”

Mike Hlad, director of buildings, and a team of district staff members opened the school and began setting up tables in the gym. Everyone left Snow Ridge Ski Resort in an orderly manner and traveled to Lowville Academy.

“The kids were just amazing. They didn’t hesitate; they just responded so well. And with the chaperones and other adults in the room, we took down the decorations, grabbed the food and got ready to go back to the school,” district Superintendent Cheryl Steckly said in the story. “Everyone was so flexible and cooperative. And when they got back to the school, they just picked up where they left off.”

It’s unfortunate that some people are determined to interrupt scheduled events with violent threats. It’s scary to not know when a comment is merely angry rhetoric and when it indicates an intention to commit harm.

But all the students, district personnel and law enforcement agents handled this situation superbly. They were quickly able to assess the safest option and put a new plan into motion.

Mrs. Steckly and other district officials realized that canceling the prom would have let the students down and allowed this threat to succeed. They made the best use of the resources they had to ensure that a safe and enjoyable event was allowed to proceed.

“They planned for it all year long, and I couldn’t have asked them to respond any better to what happened,” Mrs. Steckly said in the story. “I am just so proud of these kids.”

And we’re proud of everyone who dealt with this threat so well. They made prudent decisions under pressure. The police investigation into this troubling incident should continue, and the perpetrator must be held accountable for threatening violence.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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