Philipsburg-Osceola Middle School student accused in bomb threat

lfalce@centredaily.comApril 17, 2014 

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The Philipsburg-Osceola High School on Thursday, April 17, 2014.

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— A third bomb threat in Philipsburg-area schools in as many days led to the arrest of a 14-year-old boy Thursday, police said.

Philipsburg-Osceola Middle School Principal Kelly Rees and Assistant Principal Brian Pelka were in a meeting just before 9 a.m. when a student said he found a note on notebook paper written in pencil in a school bathroom that stated “I’m gonna blow up this place at 1:15.”

The two analyzed the handwriting on the note and believed they had a reasonable suspicion of the suspect’s identity. They consulted with administration at Philipsburg-Osceola Senior High, where bomb threats were made Tuesday and Wednesday, on how to proceed.

At 10:45 a.m., Superintendent Gregg Paladina confirmed that a suspect was in custody, and state police were on their way. No evacuation of the building was necessary because the student in question confessed to the hoax.

“I know these are emotional situations for parents,” he said. Paladina, whose office is in the lower floor of the middle school building, has two children who attend theschool.

By 1:30 p.m., state police at Clearfield reported that a 14-year-old male student had been arrested. The student’s name had not been released.

Police said they swept the school with multiple bomb-sniffing dogs and that the building was “cleared and deemed safe.” The student is facing criminal charges through Clearfield County Juvenile Probation.

The first two threats, both at P-O high school, were more anonymous, requiring police response and building evacuation.

On Tuesday, a message was found scrawled on the boys’ bathroom wall. A second note was found in a boys’ bathroom on Wednesday at about 1 p.m.

The building was searched with bomb-detecting dogs both days with negative results. Employees have been marshaled to step up observations in the schools, including regularly patrolling bathrooms to pinpoint time periods for any subsequent threats.

Paladina said video surveillance has been helpful in the high school investigation. He added that the behavior will be prosecuted to the fullest, both in the criminal justice system and through student discipline, up to and including possible expulsion.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the boy in custody was a suspect in the prior threats.

Paladina credited the administrators at both the high school and middle school with quick reaction to ensure student safety and thorough follow-up investigations.

Lori Falce can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @LoriFalce.

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