Wyoming Area defends handling of threat, lockdown; juvenile suspect charged

By Kulsoom Khan - kkhan@timesleader.com
Tom Skilonger, 64, of Wyoming, speaks to the school board Tuesday about increased safety on behalf of his grandson, who is a student at Wyoming Area. A threat caused a five-hour lockdown at Wyoming Area Secondary Center last week. - Sean McKeag | Sunday Dispatch
Members of the Wyoming Area School Board talk with parents about school safety during a board work session at Wyoming Area Secondary Center Tuesday. - Sean McKeag | Sunday Dispatch

EXETER — Wyoming Area School District’s superintendent said Tuesday she believes the district handled last week’s reported threat and lockdown the way it was supposed to, even though the District Attorney’s office announced it is investigating.

The Wyoming Area Secondary Center was locked down for over five hours March 15 after threatening messages were found written on a restroom mirror at approximately 8:15 a.m. During much of that time, worried parents gathered outside, waiting to see their children.

In a news release Tuesday, the DA’s office stated it was not notified of the incident until noon and it is “reviewing the policies and procedures taken in response to the incident.”

The DA also said charges have been approved against the juvenile suspected of making the threat. The juvenile’s name was not released.

Superintendent Janet Serino said the school’s police officer, Chris Alberigi, called 911 earlier than noon.

Serino is not sure exactly when the call was made, however.

“I will say at this point that I do believe we followed all the procedures and protocols that we were supposed to follow,” she said.

Wyoming Area School Board President Elizabeth Gober-Mangan agreed.

“As far as I’m concerned, the district did everything in the right manner,” she said. “I believe the District Attorney’s office was notified within an hour of the lockdown. That’s my understanding.”

She also said there was “a very large police presence” at the school after the incident was reported.

District officials will meet with Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis on Friday to discuss protocols in these types of situations, according to Wyoming Area solicitor Jarrett Ferentino, who is also an assistant DA.

Officer hire; metal detectors

Dozens of parents, district employees, and students attended Tuesday’s school board work session as it was the first board gathering since last week’s incident. To further strengthen security, Serino said another police officer will be hired in April and two more metal detectors will be purchased. District officials also plan to meet with local police departments monthly to continue the dialogue on safety in schools.

Bethany Sromovsky, an eighth-grader at Wyoming Area Secondary Center, said many of her peers are not even aware that counselors are available for them to speak to if they are having personal issues. “Students don’t know that what they’re feeling isn’t OK or that they should get help,” she said.

Serino said the district hired its own social worker last year and has a behavioral health team. After last week’s incident, guidance counselors contacted local agencies with whom they partner with to make sure counselors are available to any student who might need them.

Adam Sromovsky, Bethany’s father, stressed the importance of encouraging parents to get more involved.

“The kids need to know it’s not something bad if they’re having problems — that it’s something part of normal life.”

Tom Skilonger, 64, of Wyoming, speaks to the school board Tuesday about increased safety on behalf of his grandson, who is a student at Wyoming Area. A threat caused a five-hour lockdown at Wyoming Area Secondary Center last week.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_TTL032118wyomingarea1.jpgTom Skilonger, 64, of Wyoming, speaks to the school board Tuesday about increased safety on behalf of his grandson, who is a student at Wyoming Area. A threat caused a five-hour lockdown at Wyoming Area Secondary Center last week. Sean McKeag | Sunday Dispatch

Members of the Wyoming Area School Board talk with parents about school safety during a board work session at Wyoming Area Secondary Center Tuesday.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_TTL032118wyomingarea3.jpgMembers of the Wyoming Area School Board talk with parents about school safety during a board work session at Wyoming Area Secondary Center Tuesday. Sean McKeag | Sunday Dispatch
DA reviewing incident; juvenile suspect charged

By Kulsoom Khan

kkhan@timesleader.com

Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or email sd@psdispatch.com

Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or email sd@psdispatch.com