Violence and mental health amidst LCTI threats

LCTIs+building+standing+strong+despite+many+threats.+Photo+credit%3A+Lehigh+Career+and+Technical+Institute+Website

LCTI’s building standing strong despite many threats. Photo credit: Lehigh Career and Technical Institute Website

Gianna Cusumano, Entertainment Editor

After recent reports of bomb threats against Lehigh Career and Technology Institute, school safety is on the minds of Southern Lehigh community members. Southern Lehigh High School students have the option to attend Lehigh Career and Technical Institute (LCTI) for vocational courses with a skill-based curriculum. The threats at LCTI cost attendees several instructional days starting in the week of Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

The bomb threats were first reported on November 8 and Pennsylvania State Police immediately began investigating the case. Officers conducted a formal search of the building, but found no evidence that the school was in physical danger. 

Students were evacuated from LCTI after word of the threats, but families were not notified of the cause until later that night. Following the news of the threats, morning LCTI school buses were turned around, often midway, and brought back to Southern Lehigh High School where students sat in the auditorium for about two and a half hours, the time they would usually attend class. 

“While LCTI’s curriculum works best with in-person instruction, the highly effective virtual tools we developed early on in the coronavirus pandemic allow our teachers to easily share assignments online,” LCTI representative Ms. Precious Petty said. 

Following the threats, LCTI implemented several temporary safety measures including adding Pennsylvania State Police officers on campus, more security guards, and the use of metal detectors to check visitors into the building. 

Bringing officers in and metal detectors helped,” sophomore Raven Martinez said. 

They have already changed what I had the most problem with, and that was the metal detectors. My only problem with that was half of us had to take our stuff out of our bookbags and the other half was stuck cold outside waiting to walk through. So now that they are gone I feel like we can start to go back to normal.” 

On Wednesday, November 16, LCTI students returned to in-person classes with the new changes. Although many students are committed to returning to LCTI to finish out their studies, parents were apprehensive to allow their children to return. Martinez explained that her parents were close to unenrolling her over concerns of the rumors and LCTI’s response to the threats.

According to a study from Gallup, American parents’ concern for the physical safety of their children at school is the highest recorded since 2001. Researchers concluded that out of the K-12 parents surveyed, 44% expressed that they feared for their child’s physical safety at school.  

“A lot of students are hesitant about going to [LCTI],” sophomore Ariana Ramos said. “A lot of people are scared that something will actually happen, especially with the rumors of what was going on.” 

The study from Gallup also surveyed American parents about their school-aged children’s own apprehension towards attending school and 20% admitted that their child has expressed concern. The numbers provided showed that this statistic edged closer to a record high of 22% in 2001 and shot up steeply from the 12% collected in August of 2019.

To combat the impact of the threats, LCTI administration urged students to see their guidance counselor if they are struggling with their transition back to school. After coming back to the school, LCTI teachers reached out to students to help them process what they are going through.   

“Doc M [Heather Mariotti, a LCTI teacher,] was very understanding that the whole situation was traumatic and we talked as a class and kind of went on a rant about how we felt,” sophomore Aurelia Fernandes said. “The school work that we missed was just pushed back until everything went back to ‘normal.’” 

The bomb threats were initially reported anonymously through an app called Safe2Say. Safe2Say is a violence prevention program run by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. The program provides students and staff with training on how to become upstanders and runs an app that connects law enforcement with anonymous tips from users to notify schools of issues.

“Anytime you send a message through the internet, there is trackable information that we could use to figure out what computer it came from,” Allentown detective Mr. Alex DeIglesias said. “It gets a little convoluted when it comes to the forensic world for that, but you could still usually track them down.”

DeIglesias offered insight on how the Pennsylvania State Police could potentially go about investigating the case, though he did not work on it himself. 

“Safe2Say was designed to be safe for you to say: ‘this is the information that I heard and I am going to put it out there,’ it is really hard to actually do that on this site,” DeIglesias said. “But with that being said, there’s a caveat: if there’s a lot of unfounded stuff that keeps coming through and through and through, it is probably somebody that is using the site with malicious nature than it is actually giving a tip.” 

When “unfounded” information such as this is reported, it can actually cause issues instead of preventing them; consider how LCTI has had to cancel classes for the unsubstantiated bomb threats.

LCTI does not currently have answers to who is behind the threats, but law enforcement has communicated that they do possess several leads.