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Officials: Students’ ‘disturbing’ posts probed in 2 LI districts

In the Plainview-Old Bethpage and Port Jefferson districts, police were investigating the separate incidents, superintendents said.

Outside Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK High School on Friday,

Outside Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK High School on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

A picture of what Plainview-Old Bethpage school officials called a disturbing social media post, sent anonymously to high school administrators, resulted in a female student being questioned by police Friday and released to the custody of her parents, Superintendent Lorna Lewis said.

The incident in the Nassau County district was one of at least two at Long Island schools involving social media.

In Port Jefferson, Superintendent Paul Casciano posted a statement on the district’s website about an “alleged and vague threat that was made via social media” against Earl L. Vandermeulen High School on Thursday. He said the individual had been identified and the district was working with Suffolk County police.

The social media posts came in the days after 17 people were killed in a mass shooting Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student there who had been expelled, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Lewis, in an email early Friday afternoon to the district’s parents and staff, wrote of a “disturbing social media post” by a student that “featured guns and racist remarks.” The statement did not specifically describe what was in the post.

However, a source confirmed that it showed a photograph of a female student holding what appeared to be two small guns. It was unclear if the weapons were real guns or those used for recreation, such as paintball.

Lewis, in the interview, said she was notified of the disturbing post about 10:30 a.m. by the principal of Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK High School. Officials at the school had anonymously received a picture of a social media post, she said.

She credited the anonymous tipster.

“I do want to say we always say, ‘When you see something, say something,’ ” Lewis said. “Somebody saw something they were not comfortable with, and they said something. It is a credit to our community.”

The superintendent declined to give the age or grade of the student involved. A Nassau County police spokesman said Friday that the incident was under investigation.

Lewis, in her statement to parents and staff, said the district “took appropriate action in accordance with our Code of Conduct.” She said confidential counseling is available for concerned students.

Casciano, the Port Jefferson schools chief, said in his statement on the district’s website, “Social media has created a firestorm of rumors, which I would like to address. At no time today or yesterday were any of our campuses on lockdown/lockout, no evacuation occurred and no bomb threat was made against any of our school facilities. The police presence on campus was intended to put our parents and students at ease and was a direct result of the before mentioned ongoing investigation.”

Other school districts on the Island, including Commack, Connetquot, Levittown and Long Beach, posted on their websites safety messages or guidance on talking to children about school violence.

Public schools will be closed next week for midwinter break.


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