GRANVILLE — A Granville High School student was arrested on a misdemeanor charge Wednesday after he made “intimidating” comments to other students at the school about purchasing a gun or guns that some found threatening, authorities said.
The 17-year-old was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, after an investigation by Granville Police and the Washington County District Attorney’s Office. His name was not released because of his age, and he was released pending prosecution in Granville Village Court.
The school has suspended him.
Granville Police Chief Ernie Bassett said there were no specific threats of violence made, nor an indication that the teen planned any violence at the school. If there had been, a weightier felony charge would have been filed, he explained.
The school district termed the youth’s statements “intimidating” in a statement.
“The student made some concerning comments in front of other students,” Bassett said. “The totality of the situation showed there were some concerns and the school district is addressing them.”
Bassett said police were not releasing all of the details about the teen’s comments, but said they were “referencing firearms.”
Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said he did not anticipate any additional charges. He praised the school district’s reaction when learning of the comments.
“The school district handled it perfectly,” he said. “They responded and dealt with it as best they could under the law.”
The school district posted a message on its website about the situation late Wednesday, and school was open as scheduled Thursday.
“This afternoon (Wednesday, February 28), school officials became aware of intimidating statements that were made to several students. After an investigation, the matter was turned over to the Granville Police Department. The Granville Police Department is currently conducting its own investigation into the matter. All school buildings are under normal operations at this time.”
The arrest was made by Granville Police Sgt. Dave Williams, who is assigned full-time to the school district as a school resource officer in its three buildings, rotating through the district during the day. The district is one of only a few in the region that has a full-time officer in its buildings, and the school pays the village to reimburse for his salary.
This school year is the second for Williams’ assignment to the school, and he also works some normal police shifts outside the school, Bassett said.
“I think they are pretty pleased with how it has worked out, and so are we,” the chief said.
Parent Jenn Cook said she believes the school does a good job of taking care of incidents as they occur. However, she is concerned about the lack of communication from the district. She said some parents did not send their children to school because they did not know what was happening.
“I wouldn’t have thought to go on their websites and a lot of parents don’t even have internet to go on it. One of my good friends lives in the middle of the country,” she said. “They can make automated calls for softball signups or let them know they still serve breakfast, but they can’t throw out an automated call to let us know that something is going on.”
Superintendent of Schools Thomas McGurl said he did not make any robo-calls because it was an evolving situation.
“I’m not going to send out a robo-call unless I have the facts of what’s going on,” he said.
After the initial interviews of the student were complete, within 10 minutes he had posted a message on the school website, which people have to click on before they can view anything else. After he determined that there were was no actual threat made to the district or any individual, he revised the message.
His first priority on Thursday morning was to meet with students and staff at an assembly. He then posted a letter and sent out a robo-call. He also wanted to get confirmation from the school district’s attorneys that he was not violating the student’s rights.
McGurl said he understands parents’ frustration. It is similar to the incident in January when a bus backed into a snowy ditch in January. People want instant information, according to McGurl.
“I’m not going to go out and say things that aren’t true or make statements without doing a full investigation. There are some things that do take time. We do live in a Facebook world, but everything can’t happen as fast as cyber world,” he said.