WILKES-BARRE — A threat on social media apparently led to many Holy Redeemer High School students taking an unscheduled day off from school Thursday.
City police said they learned at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday that a male student at Holy Redeemer made a statement online “in regards to bringing a firearm to school.”
The student was identified, and an investigation was initiated by police in Wilkes-Barre and Kingston. School administrators were also notified, and steps were taken by police and school staff to ensure the safety of students and instructors throughout the morning, according to police.
Still the normal crowd of students and parents were missing along Pennsylvania Boulevard as the Diocese of Scranton school let out for the day.
There were only a dozen vehicles outside the building around 2:30 p.m., and normally full school buses were carrying only handfuls of students.
“Please know that the safety and security of your sons and daughters is our first priority, and that we have taken all appropriate measures to absolutely ensure that there is no immediate threat to our school community,” said Principal Anita Sirak in a Facebook post on the school’s page.
Parents both praised and criticized the way school officials handled the situation. They were informed through a Facebook post and an email overnight.
Nancy Jacobs and Patrick Wills were both critical of the administration in posts on the school’s Facebook page.
“I think it is ridiculous that we have to find out about this on a Facebook post. Parents should be notified immediately about our children’s safety,” Jacobs posted.
“While I’m sure protocols were followed to investigate the issue and safeguard the building, the communication plan was an epic fail,” Wills wrote.
Michael Delaney, on the other hand, posted about his trust in the law enforcement agencies overseeing the investigation.
“I did send my son to school after speaking with WBPD and finding out the issue was resolved and was caught before a tragedy occurred. I refuse to let terror attacks affect my kids and family,” he posted. “As parents we need to report such events and trust that our law enforcement agencies will handle these events properly. We are not immune to these issues because we send our kids to private schools. I pray nothing ever happens to any of our kids.”
As the school bell rang for the final time during the school day, several city police cars fanned out around the school with some in the parking lot, others in the Curry Donuts lot across the street.
Principal Sirak and James McDermott, director of religious formation, came out the front doors, talked to some teachers and walked to the school parking lot, where on a normal day cars driven by students would fill the area. Teachers did fan out, as normal, around the school lot, but there were very few students.
Diocese spokesman Bill Genello declined to comment further.
Police said all parties are cooperating with law enforcement, and the investigation is ongoing.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Wilkes-Barre City Police at 570-208-4222.