Ridgway Area School District addresses safety concern

Staff Writer

The Ridgway Area School District's Superintendent received notification from the Elk County Assistant District Attorney on Saturday, September 7, 2019, at approximately 8:45 a.m. in regards to a concerning behavior exhibited by a youth in the community. That youth is a student enrolled in the District. The concerning behavior was discovered as a result of the Ridgway Borough Police (RBP) investigation. The police investigation was conducted on the evening of Friday, September 6, 2019, and was prompted by a concerned citizen notifying law enforcement that evening, of a snap chat post that referenced Friday the 13th and "#get ready for hell". There was no direct threat to students, staff or the school.
However, the District had cause for concern with the Elk County Assistant District Attorney’s notification on September 7, 2019. As the previous week, the same youth exhibited behavior within the community that indicated violence through a snap chat post. This life safety threat was reported through the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Safe to Say Something Anonymous tip line (S2SS) on Saturday, August 31, 2019, at 1:27 p.m. Both the District and Pennsylvania State Police were notified through S2SS. The Pennsylvania State Police investigated the matter and updated the school. Again, there was no direct or implied threat to students, staff or the school. The District provided support services within the context of school policies and procedures.
Neither concerning behavior exhibited by the youth, within the community, had a nexus to the school environment, because of this, the District's actions were limited. However, the nature and proximity of the behaviors within the community led the District, the Elk County Assistant District Attorney, and the Ridgway Borough Police to enact precautions to promote safety in the school and community. In addition, on Monday, September 9, 2019, the Superintendent convened the District's Threat Assessment Team (TAT) and conducted an inquiry into the youth's behaviors within the community. The RASD TAT is a multidisciplinary team comprised of a number of district officials with varying areas of expertise, which allows for a thorough analysis of the behaviors and threats. As a result of the inquiry, the school district developed a safety plan to protect students and staff and to support the student of concern.
There are several facts that should be highlighted so the community is aware of the combined efforts of county agencies. First and foremost, the collaboration between the Elk County District Attorney’s Office, the Assistant District Attorney, the Ridgway Borough Police, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Ridgway School District was substantial and significant in preventing a potential tragedy within the community or school. This level of collaboration has been going on in Elk County since February 2018 and has resulted in very specific and clear protocols being followed by all law enforcement agencies and the school districts. With growing societal concerns, frequent and timely communication between agencies has intensified in an effort to assure safety.
Second, the residents of Ridgway, including youth and adults, are extraordinary for being attuned to social media and situational awareness. Because of you, agencies have an army of citizen investigators who show incredible care for their community and who are reporting concerns in a timely manner. It is also important to know that when the School District expresses concerns to parents and guardian about red flags pertaining to student behavior, parents and guardians have been responsive to the District's recommendations, safety plans, and support services. Finally, the resources put forth by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office with the Safe 2 Say Something Tip line has been significant in identifying concerns within the community and developing a network of knowledge by which agencies can be proactive instead of reactive. Be encouraged, that if you see something, say something, and we will take action. Your choice to get involved has the potential to save lives. In a society with increasing intolerance and violence, together we can make our schools and communities safer places to live, learn, work and play.