Ambridge Police Chief James Mann said the 16-year-old boy faces charges of making terroristic threats, risking a catastrophe and disorderly conduct. Mann said police are also checking with the FBI and the Beaver County District Attorney’s office to determine whether the teen should face additional charges. Neither boy is being identified because they are juveniles.
“We’re going to prosecute this kid to the fullest extent of the law,” Mann said. "We're going to make an example. This is ridiculous."
Ambridge police were called Friday and Monday to the high school for written threats that turned out to be fake. Police were then called a third time Wednesday after a student claimed to find a threat written in liquid hand soap in the bathroom.
Superintendent Cynthia Zurchin said high school students were evacuated to their buses Wednesday.
“Many students were saying, ‘I don’t like this. I’m missing my classes. This isn’t funny anymore,' ” Zurchin said.
She said two students who are responsible have been caught.
O'Brien said an investigation by Assistant Superintendent Megan Mealie, who is also serving as interim junior high principal, led to an arrest. He said Mealie offered a reward and a handful of students came forward with information following two junior high threats Oct. 30 and Friday, Nov. 7.
The eighth-grader confessed to the Nov. 7 bomb threat that was found written on a bathroom stall. He was released to his parents and will be charged by summons.
Mann said the 16-year-old high school student was caught after gloating to classmates last week that he was going to get everyone out of school early.
"That's how he got caught. He told on himself."
Officers from Ambridge, Harmony, Baden, Economy, the Beaver County Sheriff's Department, and Pittsburgh and Allegheny County Bomb Squads have responded to each threat, resulting in a lock down and a sweep of the buildings that determined them safe for class as usual.
Mann said the false threats are “a total waste” of manpower and resources that could be used for real emergencies. One of the threats that triggered a response at the high school appeared to have been carved in writing over a year ago, he said. Pretty soon, Mann said the school could be getting a bill for summoning the bomb squad and K-9 officers.
Zurchin said moving forward students will have to make up lost time, which will require paying teachers additional days to come in and work.
Parents expressed outrage at the school board meeting about the pranks, but had mixed feelings about punishing the entire student body with make-up days or loss of privileges, such as school activities.
School Board member Kelly Smith suggested taking away prom to send a strong message.
In all, there have been four threats in four school days. Zurchin said the district takes such threats “very, very seriously.”
“We have spent each day strategizing, are we giving too much information.”
Assemblies were held at the high school and junior high to warn students of the consequences. Last school year, police were dealing with fake bomb threats, as well. Should this continue, Zurchin said students will have to make up the time.
“It isn’t funny. Your heart just drops when you hear these things, it’s very scary,” Zurchin said.
“We’re pulling the bomb dogs from the airport. We’re pulling the bomb dogs from Pittsburgh…we are going to have to make up this time,” Zurchin said.
Following leads, administrators closed down some bathrooms and instituted sign in sheets for others. Zurchin said they also watched cameras and have considered hiring a temporary staff person at the high school to sit at the bathroom all day long. They have discussed strategy, including providing an anonymous hotline for people to call in tips.
School officials wouldn't say if the students caught would be expelled, but said generally there are disciplinary protocols to follow.
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This article has been updated.