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Potsdam man charged after making threatening statement during meeting with elementary principal

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POTSDAM - A meeting with the parents of a student at Lawrence Avenue Elementary School in Potsdam ended with the district going into a lockout, following an allegedly threatening statement made by the boyfriend of the student’s mother.

Lawrence Avenue Elementary School Principal Larry B. Jenne, in as statement he provided police, said he could tell that Toby J. LaBier, 37, of Potsdam was irritated during the conversation which took place shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday.

“Toby LaBier was upset about the new Common Core learning standards and the teacher asking Brittany (the girl’s mother Brittany Lozano) to bring a snack that is peanut free due to a food allergy student in the classroom,” Mr. Jenne said.

“Toby LaBier was obviously upset by the course the conversation was taking and commented, ‘You wonder why people come into school and shoot things up.’”

Mr. Jenne noted the comment was made as Mr. LaBier was seated and given in a “matter-of-factly tone.”

Mr. Jenne then recalled Ms. Lozano’s reaction to the statement, “I knew I should not have brought you with me.”

Mr. Jenne said the statement immediately made him feel uncomfortable and he told LaBier that the statement was inappropriate.

“He had been uncooperative for the majority of the interview, but I made it clear that the comment crossed the line. I informed Toby I would be notifying the superintendent,” Mr. Jenne recalled. “Toby then said, ‘The police can find me in the parking lot in a grey car.’”

At that point, Mr. Jenne said LaBier left the room and slammed the door on his way out.

“I spoke with Brittany Lozano after he left and she apologized for his comment, assuring me that he would ‘never do anything.’ I remained uneasy, not knowing Mr. LaBier or having any idea what he is or isn’t capable of,” he said.

After contacting Superintendent Patrick H. Brady, Mr. Jenne said he was advised to contact the village police. He made that call at approximately 9:20 a.m.

Nearly an hour after calling the police, Mr. Jenne said he followed up with them, and after being told that they were still attempting to locate LaBier, he decided to implement a lock-out in his building, a procedure that was also followed in the middle and high schools.

Mr. Brady praised Mr. Jenne for his actions and the way he responded to the situation.

“Under the circumstances, the building principal acted very appropriately,” he said. “Mr. Jenne did an excellent job and what he was trained to do.”

Mr. Brady explained that with the district in lock-out mode, classes and activity in each of the buildings continued as normal, with the exception of visitors not being allowed into the building and students not being allowed to leave or go outside.

“In this case there was not a perpetrator in the building,” Mr. Brady said, adding the lock-out lasted for roughly 45 minutes and was ended after police informed the district that LaBier had been arrested.

LaBier was charged with one count of second-degree criminal nuisance and released on his own recognizance. An order of protection barring LaBier from going to either the middle school or elementary school (the two buildings are connected) was issued. LaBier was also ordered to stay away from Mr. Jenne and surrender any guns he owns to the sheriff’s department by noon today.

While an announcement was made that the school was in lockout mode, Mr. Brady said students were not made aware of specifically what had happened. An email message, as well as a text message, was sent to parents who subscribe to the district’s free emergency contact service.

“In this particularly time we find ourselves in, people need to understand we take every threat seriously,” Mr. Brady said. “People need to be careful what they say.”

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