By Mark Hallum
A message scrawled on the desk from an unidentified school in Queens claiming a shooting would occur March 5, shook the borough earlier this week, but the NYPD determined it was not a credible threat.
The note said the individual would commit bloodshed just weeks after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., resulted in the deaths of 14 students and three teachers and brought the topic of gun control to the forefront of national discourse once again.
“NYPD thoroughly investigated the threat and determined it was not credible,” city Dept. of Education spokeswoman Miranda Barbot said. “Safety is our top priority, and we are providing additional security to support the school community.”
Schools reacted as they saw fit with authorities taking full precautions against the threat which began circulating during the week prior to March 5 and Bayside High School Principal Michael Athy sent an email to students calming them against the dark message while asking them to exercise a healthy dose of skepticism.
“There is a Snapchat photo of something written at a desk at another school making the rounds among kids via social media. The police and other authorities are well aware of it and apparently it has been circulated among students at over 20 schools throughout the city,” Athy said in the email. “We are as concerned about the fear-mongering and rumor-spreading as we are about the actual writing on the desk. Please try to be more evaluative of what you see in the media, social media, and what you may hear from ‘friends.”’
It was not clear to parents AT which school the threat was directed and some took to social media themselves to discuss the matter.
“The schools keep saying ‘it’s not me, it’s not me.’ Then who’s school is it?” Eleni Lima wrote on the Bayside, Queens Facebook page.
Elected officials in Queens have been pushing for stricter measures on gun sales at the state level with mixed results.
State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Flushing) celebrated the passage of a legislative package in the Assembly Tuesday that would improve background checks to keep firearms away from people determined to be a danger to themselves and others while also banning bump stocks – the device used in the Las Vegas shooting.
“Today the Assembly took action against gun violence by passing common sense legislation that would close loopholes in the law and keep New Yorkers safe,” Rozic said. “While the federal government continues debating over life-saving gun control measures, we are confronting the issue head-on to improve background checks, keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, and prevent the mass shootings that have shaken up schools and communities across the nation.”
But the same success was not celebrated in the state Senate with Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) slamming Republicans Feb. 28 for voting against his legislation, which extended the wait time to purchase a firearm from three days to 10, ban bump stocks and create a gun violence research institute to study crimes using firearms as a public health issue.
Republicans, who hold the majority in the Senate, did not slack on efforts to reduce violence directed at schools, however. With the help of the Independent Democratic Committee, they passed a total of 15 bills to increase school safety such as stationing armed law enforcement officers nearby or on school grounds.
Additional security in schools would be funded through a program which would issue $25 license plates dedicated to law enforcement officers with the words “Guardians for Schools” imprinted on it.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall