Millersville Borough police are appalled that a Penn Manor High School student charged with making threats at the school was sent home by the Office of Juvenile Probation instead of being detained, police said.
The student, a 17-year-old boy, was charged with two counts of terroristic threats and two counts of disorderly conduct after threatening graffiti was found in a high school bathroom Friday and then again Monday, police said.
“This is appalling,” borough police Chief John Rochat said in a news release Monday.
Police began investigating after the first graffiti threat was found Friday morning. On Monday, they identified the student after another student reported a threat handwritten on a paper towel in a bathroom. Police matched the handwriting of the two threats and used video footage to identify the student.
He was arrested and taken to the police station where he admitted to making both threats, police said. A parent came to the station and cooperated with police, they said.
The Lancaster County district attorney’s office approved the charges, according to police.
Against the recommendation of Rochat, a juvenile probation officer refused to detain the student until his court hearing and released him to his mother, according to police.
“Detention not only protects the community but allows for mental health evaluations and treatment for the suspect, which is often a common element of school threats,” police said.
The student will not be at school Tuesday, district spokesman Brian Wallace said.
Student taken into custody for threats at high school https://t.co/cscerxouu5— Mike Leichliter (@mleichliter) February 26, 2018
The Office of Juvenile Probation cannot speak to specific cases because of confidentiality, said director David Mueller.
Speaking generally, Mueller said probation officers use detention risk assessment to decide whether to detain or release a juvenile.
“It uses predictors of risk to re-offend and risk to not appear pending the court hearing,” Mueller said. “We also talk to with the parent, try to decide whether there is adequate supervision. … If a juvenile had committed a threat, can they carry it out?” Mueller said. “Is the community truly at risk?”
Based on the assessment, probation officers can authorize detention but only a judge can order it, he said.
“Millersville Police Chief John Rochat stated he and his department take these threats seriously and they have done their job to bring this individual to justice. There are consequences for one’s actions and they will be held accountable,” police said.
Penn Manor High School Principal Phil Gale said in a message Monday that the “student made a very poor choice in making these threats.”
"Please understand that any time there is even the simplest threat, the school and the police take it very seriously and investigate the threat until we determine that our school is safe," Gale said.