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Online threats still plague WNY schools

Niagara Falls Supt.: Up to 1/3 of students in schools are absent.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — School districts and some businesses around Western New York are coping with yet another wave of social media threats. And while police continue to stress they are not credible after investigating them, precautions and the impact are still factors for those institutions. 

Niagara Falls School Superintendent Mark Laurrie makes this impassioned plea when it comes to the threats against his schools and others. 

"The police are good. They got to find the perpetrators and they have got - if they're under 18 they got to not only charge the perpetrators but their parents. And you might say - well - no we have to go through this act. This has to stop"

Laurrie says his district has been hit hard with the threats as parents are worried about sending their kids to school. This is what he says about attendance rates. 

"We had a third out in almost every school. If not more. That's another day without rituals, routines, mental health support, and instruction. All of those things we're trying to recover with - because someone put out a generalized threat to a number of schools and you have to take it seriously "

And Supt. Laurrie says taking it seriously is a costly situation. 

"We're taking police resources. So we had additional police and we had the SWAT team on notice and ready to go. Now we have to do that. There's no way around not doing that."

In the Buffalo Public Schools District, officials would not directly discuss their response or the attendance figures. They did post notice of the threats on the district website and say only that additional safety and security measures were taken. That was said to include an increased police presence at some schools.

Dr. Wendy Mistretta, who currently heads the BPS - District Parent Coordinating Council, says they do know the district can face threats.

"Our district has been doing a lot in the last few years to try and address issues of disproportionality of how we treat our kids - all the different backgrounds. And there are many that are thrilled with that - that we're having these conversations. But there are those who are threatened and that makes us a target."      

Mistretta also says she has heard of parents who are keeping their kids home but again has heard no hard numbers. She does hope the district would consider a potential remote option for them and adds,  "Considering attendance levels because we don't know for early this week - for Monday and Tuesday and now Wednesday. Consider making anyone who was absent on these days excused."   

Back on the threats, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn went out of his way to stress on Monday that a Cheektowaga man had been arrested for making direct terroristic threats against two Buffalo businesses in which he mentioned the mass shooting. 

Flynn says the man faces a seven-year prison term as a maximum sentence if he is convicted.      

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