Online threats, pepper spray incidents spur Lawrence school meeting

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LAWRENCE – Students and parents in Lawrence Township are on edge following online threats and two consecutive days of lockdowns due to pepper spray at Lawrence Central High School.

The incidents and threats also caused school officials to hold a closed door security briefing for the school board Thursday afternoon.

A day after a pepper spray incident sent 15 students to the hospital, a smaller incident took place in the science wing of the high school Thursday. Around noon, someone released a “small amount” of pepper spray in the school. Several students complained about it and one needed treatment at an area hospital.

William Pedigo’s son was among the students impacted by the scare.

“We had smelled it at the beginning of lunch. Everybody was talking about it, you know, that they smelled it,” said Pedigo’s son, who Fox 59 is not naming. “We were in (the gym) like five minutes tops, and then we got sent back to class.”

About 300 students were taken into the gym for about an hour until the vapor could dissipate.

After the incident, Pedigo and his wife decided to pull their son out of school early.

Later in the afternoon, their son began seeing messages on Facebook, referencing something much scarier than pepper spray.

“I saw one (message) where it was supposed to be a gunfight after school today,” Pedigo’s son said. “Then it changed to, you know, tomorrow it’s going to be “flying bullets”. It just kept changing and I don’t know what to think of it.”

“As a parent that’s pretty disturbing,” Pedigo said.

Pedigo shared the messages with Lawrence Police and the school.

According to district officials, they have not found the threats credible. On Thursday the superintendent sent the following letter to parents.

Hello Lawrence Township Families,
This is Concetta Raimondi, Superintendent of Lawrence Township Schools. I wanted to make you aware we had another incident at Lawrence Central today. Although similar in nature to yesterday’s occurrence, today’s event was minor. A small amount of pepper spray or similar substance was released. Students in that area of the building were taken to the gymnasium until the vapor dissipated.
I also wanted to take this opportunity to make you aware that in the aftermath of yesterday’s incident at Lawrence Central we have added additional security officers at the high school and are monitoring activities on all of our school campuses. Sadly, false reports and speculation about what might yet occur on our campuses are beginning to circulate on social media. Clearly, this inaccurate information is causing great concern among the students and parents who are receiving the tweets and e-mails.
Be assured, we are scrutinizing all messages being distributed on social media and are conducting appropriate investigations for each. We take the responsibility of providing a safe and secure environment for our children seriously and have already taken measures that have resulted in the arrest of those involved yesterday. Students involved in the incident yesterday will be prosecuted and recommended for expulsion. We wish to assure you we will use every resource at our disposal to protect our children.
Thank you for your attention to this important message.

On Thursday night, Pedigo said he’s unimpressed with the schools response so far.

“They weren’t prepared to stop yesterday from re-happening today, so how are they going to be prepared to stop a possible shooting?” Pedigo said. “Not only do I now want them to go to school, they are not going to go to school until the township can satisfy my worries that my kids are going to be safe at school.”

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