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A safe day at Watertown High School, with 50 percent absenteeism


Watertown High School had 50 percent absenteeism Tuesday in the wake of threats made Monday on the Internet, Watertown City School District Superintendent Terry N. Fralick said at the end of the school day.

The “rumors” carried on Facebook raised concerns that a student might come to school with a gun.

“We had a good school day,” Mr. Fralick said Tuesday at a news conference. “We provided an incredibly secure facility.”

Mr. Fralick and Watertown Police Chief Joseph J. Goss hoped to assure parents that it will be safe to return their children to school today. Security measures will be continued, Mr. Fralick said.

“Doors were locked and monitored throughout the day, and that will continue for the rest of the week,” Mr. Fralick said.

Chief Goss said police patrols will be maintained close to the school. “Parents should feel safe to return their children to school,” he said. “We are taking all the measures that we can possibly take.”

The chief later acknowledged, “You can’t promise 100 percent safety. But if you cause this much attention, it will need to be addressed.”

The absentee rate also was higher than usual at nearby Wiley and Case schools, Mr. Fralick said, although he did not have percentages. There are 1,203 students enrolled at the high school, so an estimated 600 skipped school, apparently for personal safety.

A criminal investigation is continuing, and the responsible person, if identified, likely will face charges of falsely reporting an incident, criminal nuisance and aggravated harassment, Chief Goss said.

There are no suspects, the two officials said.

Tuesday’s security measures did bring about one arrest, however. Two male students who returned Tuesday from five-day suspensions were checked and interviewed, and one of them, 15, was found to have metal knuckles in his locker. He faces Family Court action on a charge of criminal possession of a weapon.

The weapon would have been in the student’s locker prior to any threats being made, Chief Goss said.

Mr. Fralick said 10 students were suspended last week as a result of two fights at school.

The public’s response to the Facebook threat was beneficial, the chief said.

“The Police Department received calls from many people — bus drivers, teachers and parents,” he said. “When you see or hear something, pass it on to a responsible person.”

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