Smithtown East High School evacuated after threatening graffiti found; later deemed non-credible
Authorities evacuated Smithtown High School East Wednesday afternoon after finding graffiti in a school bathroom that police said "could be perceived as a threat."
But the school principal told parents in an evening letter that an investigation showed “no credible or specific threat” and that the school would return to normal operations Thursday morning.
Principal Robert Rose in that letter described the graffiti found was “concerning” without elaborating. Police also declined to specify the message, which they said was reported at 1:17 p.m.
In a letter that suggested the speed of the building evacuation, Rose said students who left their belongings in classrooms should retrieve them Thursday morning. “While I know some were frustrated by a lack of information at the time of the evacuation, please know that our first priority is the immediate safety of our students and staff … we will look into ways to get information to you quicker in the future.”
A district statement earlier Wednesday said that “students are being released as soon as possible and all after school activities are being canceled” while police evaluate the school’s “safety and security.”
He also said that all tests and homework that had been due Thursday will be postponed.
Smithtown High School East, in St. James, is one of two district high schools, with an enrollment of about 1,500.
District officials in February announced plans to hire armed guards to be stationed outside its schools, joining a growing number of Long Island districts that intend to or have deployed armed security.
In his letter, Rose said that whoever wrote the graffiti could face criminal charges whether or not they intended to or were capable of committing the conduct they were threatening. They could also face district discipline.
Suffolk police said fourth precinct officers were investigating the threat, which was written on a bathroom stall and "could be perceived as a threat."
Maddox Elbert, 15, freshman class president, said in a phone interview that he was in 9th period earth science class when the fire alarm sounded.
“No one really knew what it was,” he said. “We all evacuated to the back field and we were there until way past school ended.”
About 40 minutes passed before students saw a district email explaining there had been a threat, Elbert said.
“It’s really scary, especially with the Nashville shooting,” he said, referring to a school shooting in Tennessee that killed six. “We’ve constantly heard these threats, not once or twice, but tens, hundreds of times throughout Long Island.”