ELCO faces social media blowback following viral post that highlighted threat later deemed not credible

3 min read4,475 views and 425 shares Posted May 8, 2019

A viral Facebook post yesterday drew awareness to a potential school violence threat—deemed “not credible” by authorities—and elicited a public discussion regarding the district’s disclosure and followup practices.

The post that sparked the discussion, embedded below, describes the experience of an ELCO mom of three who moved to ELCO from Lebanon City years ago. Parent Stacy Torres says she’s always boasted about ELCO but recent incidents, like the threat this week, have caused her some doubt.

The Facebook post describes an alleged incident at the high school where a student was described as alluding to gun violence and sharing (joking or not) his victim choice.

Reached by phone yesterday, ELCO Superintendent Mrs. Julia Vicente said that she couldn’t comment on the specifics of the incident, but referred to a statement released on the district’s Global Connect system that said the threat had been immediately reported to Pennsylvania State Police and the School Police Officer following it being made at the end of the school day on May 6. Neither the PSP nor administration investigation were said to have found evidence of a credible threat. (Read the full statement at the bottom of this article.)

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The threat was not reported to the district using the state’s new Safe2Say system. Although Safe2Say provides new tip submission tools, like the eponymous apps and website, local administrators say that tips are treated similarly regardless of how they are submitted. ELCO and all schools in the state were required to launch the program this year, including training students in grades 6-12 on recognizing at-risk behavior using materials provided by the Sandy Hook Promise.

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Superintendent Vicente would not share details on the incident, outside of what was disclosed in the Global Connect message.

A couple questions remain for Torres, the parent who sparked the public discussion with her Facebook post. How do disciplinary decisions get made after a threat like this is deemed non credible? And why wasn’t the incident shared with parents until after the Facebook post had gone viral?

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Tracy Hayes, ELCO School Director at Large, got similar questions when she posted the Global Connect statement to her Facebook page yesterday afternoon. “I truly do not understand why we are not informed about these incidents as soon as a threat is reported,” commented one parent. “Why are we informed 24 hours later??!!!”

For now, the situation seems resolved, with Torres saying last night she felt very emotional but hoped that positive change could come from the public discussion sparked by her Facebook post.

LebTown has reached out to Vicente for additional information on how this type of disciplinary decisions is navigated, and how the law enforcement and school followup processes overlap/diverge. We will update this article or publish a new one as appropriate.

Full Statement from ELCO

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Dear Parents/Guardians,

The purpose of this message is to notify you that a report was made to the ELCO High School administration at the end of the school day on May 6 regarding an alleged threatening statement made by a student.  Following established safety protocols, the School Police Officer and Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) were immediately contacted and both entities conducted their investigations.  Based on the investigations, both PSP and administration found no evidence of a credible threat.

The Eastern Lebanon County School District will continue to be diligent and alert, and will work collaboratively with law enforcement to ensure that all safety protocols and procedures are appropriately implemented. We take every incident reported very seriously and institute necessary measures based on all the information that is available to us from law enforcement and through our internal investigation. As always, the physical and emotional safety of our students remains our top priority.

Thank you for your continued commitment to assisting the District in keeping our students and schools safe.

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Julia Vicente, ELCO Superintendent

An earlier version of this post referred to Stacy Torres by her Facebook username. We regret the error.

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