Local Students on Edge After Bomb Threats, Arson

By Dan Stamm and David Chang
|  Wednesday, May 1, 2013  |  Updated 9:35 AM EDT
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Parents met with police and the Citizens Crime Commission Tuesday night, for the latest on an arson investigation at Penn Wood High School in Lansdowne, PA. Investigators say they are working new leads into the fire, but parents expressed anger, and say they weren't told of several other threats. NBC10's Nefertiti Jaquez attended Tuesday night's meeting.

NBC10.com - Nefertiti Jaquez

Parents met with police and the Citizens Crime Commission Tuesday night, for the latest on an arson investigation at Penn Wood High School in Lansdowne, PA. Investigators say they are working new leads into the fire, but parents expressed anger, and say they weren't told of several other threats. NBC10's Nefertiti Jaquez attended Tuesday night's meeting.

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Hundreds of outraged parents and terrified students gathered in the auditorium of William Penn High School in Yeadon on Tuesday.

"If I'm sending him to a school that's not safe, how do I keep him safe?!" screamed one woman. "Should I just keep him home?"

On April 18, a fire broke out inside Penn Wood High School, Green Avenue Campus, in Lansdowne. Police say the blaze, which broke out around 4 a.m., was intentionally set. Investigators say the fire started in the school's lobby and spread throughout the first floor and into school offices.

Firefighters were able to put out that blaze but a search of the building showed another fire in a classroom on the north side of the school that "was obviously set," according to officials.

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The damage was so extensive that the building likely won't be repaired until the next school year. The arson came after three bomb threats were made against the school in February; two on Feb. 19 and one on Feb. 21. Police say a fourth bomb threat was made the same day as the arson.

Students at the school were eventually transferred to Penn Wood's Cypress Street campus in Yeadon. But on April 26, only two days after the transferred students arrived, another bomb threat was made at the Cypress Street campus. Police say the message indicated the school would be "blown up."

While a sweep of the school found nothing, the threat was enough for Pennsylvania congressman Bob Brady to get involved.

"We cannot tolerate this level of destruction and threats against our school," said Brady.

Brady requested that the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office conduct an investigation on both the arson and multiple bomb threats against the school.

"Any threat to blow up our children must be treated as a high level and real threat," he said.

Parents who attended Tuesday night's meeting agree, which is why they are angry over what they believe to be a slow response from the Penn Wood school district in regard to the threats.

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"How seriously did we take this when the initial calls came in?" asked Roxanne Norman. "This was happening consecutively over the last several months and no one had notified me."

Norman says she learned about the bomb threats and arson from her son, rather than school officials.

"There was no formal communication with the parents," she said.

During Tuesday's meeting, Penn Wood school superintendent Joseph Bruni claimed parents were notified by phone. He also acknowledged, however, that the district could have done a better job making sure every parent was fully aware of what was going on.

As officials continue to investigate, students are on edge.

"I don't feel safe," said one student. "I'm scared."

A $15,000 reward is being offered to anyone with information leading to the arrest of the person or people responsible for the arson and bomb threats. If you have any information, please call the Yeadon Police Department at 610-623-1500.

 


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