In an email sent to parents this afternoon, interim superintendent Jason Friedman explained the events surrounding the evacuation of Ardsley Middle School to parents.
From the email: “In order to include as much information and clarity as possible, we delayed sending an update communication regarding todayâ€™s events that occurred at the Middle School. Following the start of school this morning, a staff member was informed by some students that a website appeared referring to â€œArdsleyâ€ that caused them some concern and uncomfortability. They asked that the staff member look at the website. He, in fact, did so and immediately contacted administrative staff to look into the matter further. Within minutes after viewing the website and with input from the youth officer of the Ardsley Police Department, we made a decision that the content language of the website (use of the word â€œbombâ€) coupled with a picture of an AMS student, caused sufficient concern to warrant our next two actions. First, we contacted the Greenburgh Police Department asking for their assistance in assessing the web posting and, secondly, we implemented our safety and security protocol of conducting a rapid evacuation away from the Middle School. The police department concurred with both actions. While the police arrived on the scene, buses took Middle School students to the High School along with staff. Staff responded in a most positive manner assuring the safety of students in the transition from one building to the next and in handling a rather complex early dismissal of students.”
Continue on for the rest of the email.
While the dismissal of the Middle School students was occurring at the High School, the police department was continuing its investigation of the website. Based on the language within the website, they conducted an appropriate standard search of the building utilizing the Westchester County bomb squad and canine units from Rockland and Westchester Counties. At the conclusion of both the search activity and the investigation of the website, the police chiefs from Greenburgh and Ardsley, along with their staff, met with the districtâ€™s administrative team, including building personnel to discuss their findings. First and foremost, the search at the Middle School indicated that the building was safe and secure and that there was no threat to the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff. They then informed us as to the outcome of their review of the website and concluded that it did not pose any threat nor was it a criminal act. Further, they were not able to determine who created the website. Once again, they reiterated that our decision to rapidly evacuate the building was a prudent one and very much appropriate in this particular case.
Tomorrow, based on the investigation and clearance by the police department, we will be conducting a regular school day at all of our schools. The Middle School will maintain the presence of the youth officer from the Ardsley Police Department as well as the DARE officer from the Greenburgh Police Department. It is anticipated that some of our students are, of course, apprehensive after experiencing Mondayâ€™s police presence on the schoolâ€™s campus and todayâ€™s rapid emergency evacuation and early dismissal. We will be communicating with the students tomorrow in order to both inform them in an appropriate manner as to what has occurred and to provide them with guidance as to whom, in the school, they should see if their concerns continue.
For informational purposes, we will continue to administer the eighth grade social studies test starting tomorrow with Part II and then utilizing the makeup day (Thursday) to administer Part I. We are still awaiting guidance from the State Education Department as to whether what we have outlined here is acceptable to their guidelines. Staff will continue to be vigilant in looking for signs of concern expressed by students in the building and to guide students to appropriate school personnel, as necessary.
While we understand that the events of the last two days have caused concern as to how the district is assuring the safety and security of the communityâ€™s children in their schools, please be assured that the welfare of our students and staff regarding their safety and security is of the utmost importance to this district. It is our first and foremost responsibility. While we cannot always offer as complete detail as to how we attempt to meet this responsibility, please understand that it is not something that we take for granted and, further, remain vigilant on a day-to-day basis. We are hopeful that the next few days in our schools, particularly the Middle School, will be as regular a school day as possible. We commit ourselves to doing everything possible to assure that this occurs. As always, thank you very much for your understanding and cooperation.
Jason P. Friedman
Superintendent of Schools