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Placid High student had loaded gun, knife in school (updated)

School officials draft plans to prevent similar incident

September 19, 2017
By ANTONIO OLIVERO - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - A 15-year-old student at this village's high school has been charged with a felony after having a loaded revolver and a knife inside the school Monday morning.

Lake Placid High School Principal Dana Wood said Tuesday afternoon that he was alerted to the situation when another student directly informed him at about 10:30 a.m. Monday that the student in question was in possession of the weapons in a drawstring backpack.

Wood said he retrieved the 15-year-old and his pack from the cafeteria at 10:35 a.m., the start of the school's fifth period. Wood said he then brought the student back into his office without incident or conflict, and discovered that the student had the weapons in the drawstring sports bag.

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Lake Placid Middle-High School
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

"Just from me handling the bag, I could determine there was something in there that shouldn't be in there," Wood said.

Wood said he then immediately contacted village police, who promptly sent two officers across Main Street to his office. Assistant Police Chief Chuck Dobson said officers received the call at 10:43 a.m., and when they arrived at the school moments later, they found the situation under control. Police said Wood was in possession of the weapons, in the bag, when they arrived and turned them over to police immediately.

"The weapon did have ammunition with it," Dobson said.

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Dobson described the student as calm upon police's arrival.

He added that police don't currently believe anyone was in danger due to the student's weapon possession or that there was a threat of violence at any point in the school.

"[That's] based on an interview of the juvenile and all of the interviews we've conducted since then of third parties," Dobson said. "We've interviewed numerous students from the school along with their parents, school officials and family members of the juvenile."

The student was transported to the police station after a parent arrived at the school to accompany the child. The boy was charged as a juvenile delinquent with criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds, a felony. The case will be heard in Essex County Family Court in Elizabethtown.

Dobson said that pursuant to state law, police are not permitted to provide or confirm the identity of the 15-year-old. He added that he could not comment on the student's prior criminal history, if any, as police's investigation is ongoing.

Dobson said police will further conduct more interviews of third-party witnesses. He added that there are no charges pending against anyone else and that police believe the incident is contained to just the one individual.

Wood and Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Roger Catania said the district has yet to determine scholastic discipline for the student, though Wood said the school is permitted to keep a student out of class for up to a year in a case of firearm possession on campus.


Notifying parents

The school notified district parents of the incident at around 11 a.m. Tuesday through an email and automated phone call. Wood said the school waited to send the message so as not to interfere with the police's investigation. He added that no announcement regarding the incident was relayed at the school on Monday and that he and other administrators believe most students weren't aware the situation had occurred.

The principal described response from district parents Tuesday as "mixed."

"I've spoken to one parent in person who came in," Wood said. "I spoke to several parents on the phone directly. They emailed me, and I called them directly to answer any questions they may have."

Many parents of students took to Facebook to express frustration that school officials waited so long to tell them about the incident. Parent Monica LaBrake Corrow wrote in a Facebook message to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that she was "appalled it wasn't handled by a lockdown and inspection of lockers etc to be sure other students didn't have a weapon.

"Why have a lock down procedure if a report of a weapon on school comes to light and they don't immediately lock the school down until it is determined all are safe!! They took the word of the student he did not intend to use the weapon vs checking to make sure lockers or back packs or bathrooms didn't have weapons in them."


New security steps

Wood and Catania further said school and district officials spent today brainstorming and drafting plans to ensure a situation like Monday's doesn't happen again. Wood said the school plans to inform students, parents and faculty that, beginning Thursday, students won't be permitted to wear drawstring sports bags in hallways. The school previously did not permit students to carry larger traditional backpacks in the hallway. There will be an exception for students who need bags for medical reasons.

"I can tell you in my 22 years in education, fifth year as principal here," Wood added, "I've never as a teacher, dean of students, principal, never had a situation like this. Our community is not one where that is the typical threat with weapons in the building."

Wood added that he asked Dobson Tuesday if village police would be willing to do a weekly walk-through of the school to provide police presence in the building, as Lake Placid does not and has never had a resource officer. Wood said Dobson said the department would "absolutely" be willing to do it. The principal added that days and times for the walk-throughs are to be determined.

Wood also said the district intends to use to facilitate students communicating to administrators similar concerns in the future. Wood said the district feels this kind of "anonymous reporting system" will empower students to inform adults of problem situations and report cyberbullying through the downloadable mobile app.

Catania echoed both Dobson and Wood that this was the first time he could recall a student bringing a firearm with ammunition on school grounds. He said the district is currently focused on providing an extra sense of security to its schools, and he commended police and Wood for their handling of the situation.

"We share our parents, our kids and our faculty's concern about safety in the building," Catania said. "And we plan to do everything we can to ensure that people have that confidence that when the kids are in the school they are safe from harm. And these are the moments when the worries arise, because these are troubling circumstances.

"It's a rare occasion," the superintendent continued, "and it also is one where one thing that we are happy with is the lines of communications here were open between kids and the administration. And we count on that. We count on kids and others talking with us about their concerns. So we will encourage more of that in the future."

Later Tuesday night at the school board's regularly scheduled meeting, Catania opened with a statement with regards to the incident. He said that the district administration is taking feedback on social media "very seriously."

"We are reading it all and we are tuning in and trying to respond as best we can and learn," Catania said of feedback from parents.

"We do want people to know that once we discovered the potential risk, any threat that might have existed had already passed," the superintendent added. "In other words, once we learned about it, everything was under control. The situation was handed over to the police. So there was never any need to call for an emergency response, because there was never any known threat.

"As for the timing of our statement," he continued, "we did wait for the police to conclude their initial investigation because we were worried about providing - we wanted to provide accurate information and we were worried about leaving too much room for misinterpretation."



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