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Students arrested, charged across Valley for threats against schools

Police and school leaders stress, once again, that if you see something, to say something and let police check every lead

(WKBN) - Every threat against a school in our area this week has been taken seriously and could lead to big charges against the people behind them. Police have investigated nearly a dozen this week, just in the Mahoning Valley.

The threats have been in large and small districts, big communities and even rural ones.

A McDonald Elementary student was taken out of class.

A Howland student was charged with inducing panic.

In Austintown, a note was found in a classroom at the intermediate school -- which is grades 3, 4 and 5. Police checked the building, found no weapons and cleared it an hour later.

Three Niles students have been arrested this week for threats and have been charged with inducing panic. It led the high school to ban backpacks.

In Sebring, a 15-year-old freshman was suspended and has been charged with making false alarms.

"He appeared to have a plan. He just talked about it a lot and our students were really bothered by it, so we did take it very seriously," said Sebring Solicitor Theresa Tolson.

And there's more.

A 17-year-old in Liberty charged with inducing panic.

An 11-year-old East Palestine student could face charges.

In Boardman, a 14-year-old was charged with inducing panic. He made a threat after the entire school was warned about this serious time at schools.

"They may be kidding. They may think it's a joke, but we did announce to them on Tuesday, reminding them that all threats would be taken seriously and reported to Boardman police," Principal Cynthia Fernback said.

The students are then taken to the Juvenile Justice Center. The charge could go up to the felony level.

Boardman Superintendent Tim Saxton hopes that other students will learn that any type of threat will not be tolerated.

"It's very frustrating because it's getting in the way of what we're here to do. We're here to instruct kids, help kids learn. We gotta take care of this to make sure they feel safe and comfortable in the classroom before we even open a book."

The juvenile court has been working with police and has noticed one theme from many of the cases already this week.

"Pretty much what we've been seeing, it's an underlying mental health issue," Wes Skeels said.

Most of them will be referred for a mental health screening first to determine the appropriate course of action. After each case runs through the court system, every school district will decide if the student should be expelled.

"This is about people. It's not about door locks, and programs and lockdowns. It's about connecting with kids," Saxton said. "I think the best investment you can have is making connections with your kids. Our parents are connecting with their kids, we're connecting with our parents. That's what's going to conquer this."

Police and school leaders stress, once again, that if you see something, to say something and let police check every lead.

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