2018-03-02 / Community

Cape schools re-open after social media post, arrest

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer


While there were no new safety measures put in place in light of a high school student making threatening and disturbing posts on Snapchat, interim Superintendent Howard Colter said safety is something that school leadership takes very seriously. (Michael Kelley photo) While there were no new safety measures put in place in light of a high school student making threatening and disturbing posts on Snapchat, interim Superintendent Howard Colter said safety is something that school leadership takes very seriously. (Michael Kelley photo) CAPE ELIZABETH – Cape Elizabeth schools are back in session this week after being closed Monday, Feb. 26 as school officials and police dealt with a concerning comments a high school student posted on Snapchat.

Cape Elizabeth Police Chief Neil Williams said a 17-year-old Cape Elizabeth student was taken into custody by a SWAT team Monday morning at a home on Minott Avenue in South Portland, where he had been staying. The individual, who as not named, was charged with a Class D misdemeanor of trespassing.

Interim superintendent Howard Colter said students met with their teachers prior to starting class on Tuesday, the day after teachers, administrators, nurses, counselors and social workers from the district’s three schools met to discuss how to provide services for students who needed someone to talk to about what happened.

“All of that is aimed at making this as normal of a day as possible and reduce stress and anxiety,” Colter said Tuesday morning.

Williams said high school Principal Jeff Shedd called the police department about 8:30 or 9 p.m. Sunday night about some concerning Snapchat posts that he was made aware of by students from the high school.

“They said they were disturbed by them. He took a look at it and saw some general statements that concerned him. We were concerned about it and the investigation started from there,” Williams said.

Williams wouldn’t give specifics about the post other than it contained some angry statements that mentioned schools and included images of guns.

Williams, who Colter lauded for his job handling the situation, said the Cape Elizabeth Police Department was familiar with the subject, but had limited involvement with the individual.

“My understanding is there may have been some disciplinary issues at school, but we haven’t dealt with him a lot, especially with something like this,” Williams said.

The student was released to his parent with an order not to trespass on school grounds.

In an email to parents sent Sunday night, Colter said school was canceled Monday “out of an abundance of caution while officials work through an issue that was brought to their attention Sunday night.”

Colter said school safety is always something he and other school and community leaders are looking into.

“The police chief was out visiting all of our schools (last week) looking at security in response, unfortunately to what happened in Parkland, Florida. He looked at our doors, entrances, exits and how the schools are set up and met with our director of buildings and grounds,” Colter said.

Furthermore, the emergency planning and response team, made up of school officials, nurses and the police and fire chiefs, meet monthly to talk about ways to improve security.

Colter said there are no new measures that will be put in place as a result of Sunday’s incident for now, but security, and how to improve it, will remain a priority for the district.

“We aren’t doing anything differently now. We don’t want to overreact, but we don’t want to under react either. Security is complicated,” he said.

Senior Christie Gillies said she was “really grateful our administration took this seriously.”

“They all obviously care about keeping us safe,” she said.

Senior Anthony Inhorn said there is a “really strong network (in place) for people to come forward if they hear something.

Inhorn, who along with Gillies is a Natural Helper at the school, said during his four years at Cape Elizabeth High School, he had never felt unsafe in the school.

“Cape Elizabeth High School is not a place a feel afraid to be in,” he said Monday. “It’s a safe place to be in.”

Junior Tory McGrath agrees.

“I’ve never felt unsafe in the Cape Elizabeth school system. I trust our administrators,” she said

The Cape Elizabeth incident comes a week and a half after a similar situation played out across the town line in South Portland in which a 15-year-old South Portland student was arrested and charged with terrorizing Feb. 15 after threatening to “shoot up the school” on Snapchat. He was apprehended while walking through the parking lot of South Portland Community Center on his way to the high school. According to South Portland Lt. Frank Clark, he was found to be in possession of a knife, but no firearms, at that time.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.

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