Classes resume in Ansonia on Wednesday with police presence - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Classes resume in Ansonia on Wednesday with police presence

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A threat closed Ansonia schools on Tuesday. (WFSB photo) A threat closed Ansonia schools on Tuesday. (WFSB photo)

An online threat forced school officials to cancel classes at Ansonia schools on Tuesday.

Superintendent Carol Merlone updated parents before Tuesday night's Board of Alderman meeting.

She said the decision was made after the threat was discovered on a social media app called the "After School" app.

Ansonia police said the thread on the app mentioned bullying and a "shoot up."

"[It was a] very generic posting online that made mention of a vague threat of possibly bullying and somebody bringing a gun to school," said Lt. Andrew Cota, Ansonia police.

Police said they were going to spend more time on Tuesday trying to determine who wrote the post.

It came a day after security was increased in Hebron after a threat was discovered at RHAM Middle School.

Ansonia police said their threat was enough for the district to cancel school for the day.

"Parents, especially, they're worried when their kids go to school," Cota said. "It's our job to make sure that they're safe while they're there, and we're going to do always err on the side of caution."

All four schools were let out early on Monday.

"After I got out of school and started hearing all over the place, and was like wait that's real? No school today, it's crazy," said Ansonia senior Seth Freeman.

The After School app allows teenagers to post comments and images on message boards that are associated with individual schools. While the app said it has a zero tolerance policy for bullying and threats, postings can get out of hand.

The third party app is not affiliated with the school district and describes itself as a private and anonymous message board for confessions and compliments.

"Something that may be in jest, you may be having a conversation with another person, but a third person can see it and they don't take it in the same context that you did and suddenly we're reacting to a threat," Cota said.

Police said the threat wasn't made toward a specific school in the district.

"It was not created by the school," Cota said. "That's what drove it towards us because it was under the heading of Ansonia."

Merlone said she didn't want to take any chances. She consulted with police and made the decision to close on Monday night.

"It's something that you don't expect to happen to your own kid," said Vincent Forleo, a parent. "Something like that can be a little scary."

Some students said it was the right call.

"If it's going to keep us safe," said Joseph Forleo, a student. "Anything to keep the students safe."

The investigation into where the threat came from continues.

School officials said school will be in session on Wednesday and extra security will be in place as a precaution.

Merlone said she sent an update to parents inviting them to a brief community update before the board meets.

"The update concerns the reported threatening incident that occurred [Monday] afternoon," she wrote. "In an effort to keep you informed and our children safe, this update will provide you with the latest information available."

At the meeting on Tuesday evening, Merlone was taking heat for not calling or emailing parents during Monday's emergency dismissal.

"We work collaboratively under the expertise of our law enforcement and when we are given the right to provide information to parents that's when we do the information," Merlone said.

Taishka Addison, who is the guardian for her niece, claims the district's handling of the threat put the child in danger.

She said 7-year-old Jewel, who normally attends an after school program, was put on a bus and arrived home alone.

"No one was there, my neighbor found her crying and brought her in her house and I'm all the way in Southington working, not even knowing what's going on here," Addison said.

The faculty at Prendergast Elementary apologized for the mistake but Addison said the issue highlights why parents need to be informed immediately.

"They keep saying it's safe, you know, they were trying to keep all the kids safe...How safe is it to put a 7-year-old child on the bus and send her home and nobody's there," Addison said.

Police continue to try to track down the person responsible for the threat.

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