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April 24, 2013

Central Cambria schools increase security after written threat found

EBENSBURG — Cambria Township police are investigating an alleged threat scrawled on a bathroom wall at Central Cambria High School. The message, discovered Tuesday morning in the second-floor boys’ bathroom by two students, was rumored to suggest a shooting would occur the day before prom, May 3.

Ebensburg Borough and Jackson Township police have since then increased presence on the school grounds.

“We still have an ongoing investigation, looking at video tapes and interviewing students,” said Superintendent Dr. Vincent DiLeo. “Security of our students and staff is of the utmost importance.”

Assemblies were held in the Central Cambria School District as an attempt to garner new information from the student body and a letter was sent home to parents on Wednesday, detailing the situation and assuring them that investigators will “exhaust all resources to determine who is responsible for this action.”

“We've met with the staff and so they understand if something (out of the ordinary) happens, to alert staff - something that doesn't appear to be normal,” said DiLeo.

Cambria Township Police Chief Mark Westrick was named by authorities as the officer in charge of the threat investigation, but he will be away from the area on a vacation which began Wednesday afternoon. Further calls to determine who will be leading the investigation went unreturned. The Cambria Township officer-on-duty had no further information regarding the incident, citing the chief as the only official who could provide new details.

Calls made to Ebensburg Borough police were ended abruptly, on claims that Central Cambria Middle School did not lie within Ebensburg borough - although it used to. Calls made to Jackson Township police went unreturned.

Eighth-grader Matthew Flowers said, however, that at least one Ebensburg and one Jackson Township officer remained at the school all day. He was privy to the same rumors circulating around the incident and, although he will be attending school on May 3, he said he doesn’t feel unsafe with the added police presence.

“I feel confident,” he said.

School Board President Dennis Simmers said police presence at Central Cambria schools is not unusual - local police are there regularly. Simmers and DiLeo both said response to the threat was flawless and swift, although Principal Kim McDermott told WTAJ-TV that roughly half of the student body was aware of the threatening message before administrators or authorities - the result of social media dissemination.

Simmers and DiLeo urged anyone with further information regarding the investigation, or concerns about the incident to contact the district’s administrative offices directly.

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