On Oct. 23 Garden City High School Principal John A. Okulski was placed in the unfortunate and difficult position of having to address parents' concerns about recent bomb threats to the high school. As of Oct. 23, when Principal Okulski sent out a letter to all of the parents of high school students, there had been six telephoned bomb threats, and reportedly since then there was at least one more threat called into the school. Each and every time the school received one of these threats it was immediately evacuated for the safety of the students, the Garden City Police Department was contacted, and Superintendent Dr. Lee Wilson was notified. Okulski in his letter to the parents describes the results of the frequent evacuations as "having a serious impact on our school environment and the learning process."
Students and parents were asked to share any information that they might have on the threats and Village police detectives opened an extensive investigation with the help of school authorities and members of the patrol force. Information was uncovered that led the detectives to identify possible suspects. As the police investigation progressed, they were able to make four arrests last week. Four high school students, all sophomores, were arrested and each charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. This means that the students will face legal prosecution in the First District Court of the Nassau County court system.
Also, the Garden City Police Department reports that as a result of the amount of man hours necessary to search the high school, conduct the investigation, file the enormous amounts of paperwork for their records and to notify outside agencies such as the Nassau County Detectives and the Nassau County Arson and Bomb Squad, as well as to review and analyze the reports, the department will seek to petition the court for reimbursement. Upon successful prosecution of the students, the courts will determine during sentencing whether or not to hold them responsible for the dollar amount to cover the expenses incurred by the Garden City Police for their overtime and other expenses. DA Dillon's office was not available for comment at press time, but the Garden City Police Department released a statement that reads, "The Police Department considers this a very serious matter and will make every effort to investigate these violations and prosecute to the full extent of the law."
In his Oct. 23 letter Okulski stated that "This is a very serious situation and will result in strong action by this school." After the arrests it was announced that the school district plans to schedule a hearing of their own, which is in accordance with State law. The recommendation for suspension for the remainder of the 1998-99 school year is expected if all of the evidence collected against the students that will be presented is deemed to be true. So, not only will these pranks result in criminal prosecution, but if the school's hearing finds them guilty of their own charges of Disorderly Conduct, Endangering the Health, Safety, and Welfare of Others, and Insubordination, the academic careers of these four students will certainly be impacted.
Lt. Jackson of the Garden City Police Department explained Monday, Nov. 2 that the investigation is not closed and that more arrests may be imminent, which means that if any other students were involved in this crime perpetrated against the school, they too will face both criminal prosecution and a hearing by the district. The district and the police offcials both hope that students will see this unfortunate time as a lesson in the need to think things through before one acts. The cause and effect relationship between these phone calls and time spent out of the classroom may have seemed funny at the time, but officials warn that there are more serious ramifications and that students will be held accountable for their actions.
Okulski requested that parents "continue discussions with your student. If they have any information, they need to share it with a member of the staff. This is not a time to worry about 'ratting out' another student. We have lost too much time and all have been faced with difficult weather." As the police indicate that the investigation is not yet closed, this remains true and anyone with any information about these phone calls should contact a member of the high school faculty or the Garden City Police Department.
There was a concern among parents and officials that these phone calls might result in "copy cats" who might jump on the prank bandwagon, but in light of the arrests and school's action, it is hoped that students will understand that such an act can and will have a seriously negative impact on their lives, just when they ought to be concentrating on their studies and extracurricular activities.