Students at Holy Trinity Diocesan High School in Hicksville were excused from classes Monday after school officials "learned of a potential threat to the safety and security of its school through communications taking place on the MySpace.com website." The alleged threats were to occur Sept. 18.
"As you are aware, early Sunday morning (Sept. 17), I was informed by the Nassau County Police Department of a potential threat to the safety and security of Holy Trinity. The threat was posted on a MySpace account and indicated that a gun was to be brought to school to cause harm. While authorities did not believe the threat was credible, our administration, along with Sr. Joanne Callahan, our superintendent, and in cooperation with the Nassau County Police Department, implemented our emergency response plan throughout the day and evening on Sunday to assure the safety of our students and staff," stated Principal Gene Fennell on the school's website late Monday afternoon.
As a result, precautions were taken immediately, including, but not limited to, a police canine unit that searched the school and its grounds; intensive police patrol during the evening; increased school security measures; limited access into the school; and police presence during both Monday and Tuesday. Access into the school both days was limited to three entrances with all other means of entry and egress locked.
"All of our security measures were purely precautionary. We take every threat very seriously and want to make sure the environment is safe for students, faculty and anyone who visits Trinity," said Sean Dolan, director of communications for the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
Parents were given the option with the school of sending their child to school Monday, granting excused absences to those who did not attend. According to Dolan, 28 percent of students were in attendance. Of 1,694 students, 468 students attended classes.
When contacted, Nassau County Police would not provide additional information regarding the threats or the "ongoing" investigation as not to "encourage any further" incidents."
As of press time, Fennell stated that school officials will continue to work with the Nassau County Police Department to see that the person responsible is detained. " ... The police have strong leads concerning the case and a person of interest has been identified. The school has assured the police that we wish the individual or individuals prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law ... I, along with the entire administration and staff, assure you that the safety of our students is of the utmost importance ..."
He continued, "This incident created a great deal of anxiety for all involved and disrupted the education process," stated Fennell. "I am proud of all the parents, students, faculty and friends who immediately brought knowledge of the threat to our attention ..."
Just last semester, Holy Trinity conducted educational workshops for parents providing important information regarding the social networking site, MySpace.com. Established in 2003, MySpace.com " ... allows members to create unique personal profiles online in order to find and communicate with old and new friends." With over 112 million members as of date, MySpace.com is currently the world's fourth most popular English-language website, the sixth most popular in any language and the third most popular in the United States.
Members can personalize their pages with pictures, videos, music, graphics and personal information as well as add "friends" to their page. While members must be 14 years old and have an email address to create an account there are currently no preventive measures in place - such as requiring credit card information - to prevent those under 14 from bypassing the rules and lying about their age.
According to its terms and conditions page, MySpace.com "takes extra precautions to protect younger members and [is] not able to do so if they do not identify themselves as such. MySpace will delete users whom [they] find to be younger than 14 or those misrepresenting their age." MySpace members may also elect to set their MySpace.com account to private so that only those on their "friends" list may view it or contact them.
For more information on the site, visit MySpace.com, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the "Terms & Conditions." Parents who suspect or wish to cancel their child's MySpace.com account should log on to the site, scroll down to the "Safety Tips" link, click on the "Tips for Parents" tab and then follow the directions for "canceling your child's account."
"I am sorry to say that we live in very challenging times. While the Internet can be a great tool, it can also be a destructive device. Sites such as MySpace.com have been continually cited for causing disruption in communities. I ask you to speak to your students and friends about the dangers of this site. I will also forward you articles concerning the site in the near future," stated Fennell.
• Remind your child that identifying information such as last name, street and email addresses, telephone numbers along with everyday activities and school events should not be posted on any website or given to someone they do not know;
• Warn children about the dangers of meeting people they do not know. Remind them that people aren't always who they say they are. Advise them not to engage in conversations with people they do not know;
• Know your child's passwords;
• Keep computers in the open and monitor the sites your child has accessed. Consider installing monitoring or filtering software; and
• Inform children about harassment, hate speech and inappropriate content should be reported.
For additional information, visit the following sites:
• OnGuard Online: FTC safety tips for parents
• The Child Safety Network
• Common Sense Media