The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 19, 2013

Internet threats prompt lockdown at Head Start

Kathy Mellott

GALLITZIN — A lockdown was put in place at Gallitzin Head Start on Thursday while police investigated statements on an Internet website that were interpreted as a potential threat against a child.

Officer-in-charge Ray Clossin of the Cresson Township police, which provides regional police service, gave details.

Clossin said a posting made by a person known to police created concern Thursday. That person was not identified to The Tribune-Democrat.

An aunt of the child, who attends the Head Start facility located in the 800 block of Church Street, contacted the facility after reading the posting. Police then were summoned, Clossin said.

“He made some statements and it alarmed the people at Head Start,” the officer said.

In response, the facility, which had about 70 children and a dozen employees on site, went into lockdown mode, said Stacie Horvath, Cambria County Head Start early childhood director.

To keep children from being alarmed, the step to secure the facility was described as a safety drill, Horvath said.

Doors were locked, police contacted and telephone calls went out to the homes of all 580 children in the countywide program.

“We were uncertain of who was involved and was this a precursor to something,” Horvath said. “No one was allowed in and no one was allowed out.”

There were no injuries, and no threats were carried out.

During the lockdown, the staff provided snacks and played games with the children, all in an effort to prevent them from becoming scared, she said.

After the police conducted an investigation of the facility, the children were permitted to leave with parents and guardians, Horvath said.

A police presence was maintained around the Head Start on Friday, and Clossin said he was continuing his investigation.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.