EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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December 15, 2012

Rumors led to heightened security at Methuen High

METHUEN — Security protocols have been stepped up at the city’s schools in response to new rumors about threats involving friends of 17-year-old Jacob Butze-Maille, who was arrested last week for allegedly making a “Columbine” type threat at the high school.

In addition, officials said yesterday they plan to maintain a heightened alert through next week following the massacre yesterday at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Police Chief Joseph Solomon said yesterday that the new rumors at the high school spread via Facebook, Twitter and text messages among teenagers and parents, were “absolutely 100 percent unfounded.” Solomon said his department investigated the rumors Thursday night and into yesterday morning.

“We tracked them down and every single investigation we started have all proved untrue,” Solomon said.

He, Superintendent Judith Scannell and Mayor Stephen Zanni determined that the schools should have extra security at least until winter break begins the end of next week.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we put extra protocols in place yesterday and today,” Solomon said.

He and Scannell said they investigate every report of a threat, but have to walk a fine line when communicating with parents and students.

“If you say there’s no truth to this, but we’re telling you about this, it sounds like there’s truth to it,” Solomon said.

High school and school administration officials talked to high school students Thursday afternoon and yesterday morning about the rumors, and asked students to keep their phones stowed and refrain from texting or posting on social media sites in an effort to tamp down the rumor.

“The last two days have been quite calm and smooth,” said high school Principal James Giuca.

Superintendent Scannell said at yesterday’s briefing that the administration sent an automated phone message to parents Thursday evening about the rumors and planned to send another last night.

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