BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — A threat scrawled on a bathroom wall — the second in the past few weeks — led to a stepped-up police presence and a ban on backpacks yesterday at St. John’s Preparatory School.
As a precaution, students with free periods were being monitored much more closely, according to Danvers police Chief Neil Ouellette and Headmaster Edward Hardiman.
School officials called police Monday morning, and parents and students were notified Monday afternoon.
”The writing did not target any individual or individuals, but because it has occurred for a second time and mentioned Friday (Dec. 19) specifically, we made the difficult, but we feel, prudent decision to implement a series of precautionary measures that were developed in cooperation with the Danvers Police,” Hardiman said in an email.
The police chief and headmaster declined to state the nature of the threats or exactly where they were left, except to say that it was in a bathroom in an academic building.
The sprawling campus of the all-boys Catholic school run by the Xaverian Brothers is along Spring and Summer streets.
Ouellette said police would maintain a beefed-up presence on campus throughout the week. This type of threat most often occurs in bathrooms because of their close confines, he said.
Hardiman said the first threat appeared Dec. 19, just before winter break. The second instance occurred Monday and referenced the earlier threat.
With backpacks banned, students must carry their belongings around campus in clear plastic bags, and access to bathrooms is being “limited and monitored,” Hardiman said. Students not scheduled for classes were required to report to other locations, where attendance was taken and students had to remain until their next class. After-school activities were scheduled to take place as usual, but students who were not part of an activity had to leave the campus or report to a central location.
Hardiman said yesterday that the goal was to have a normal school day, though he understood there was some frustration among students inconvenienced by the changes. There has been “a good deal of support,” from the St. John’s community, he said.
”It is the unsettling reality of our times that we find ourselves faced with this situation at St. John’s,” Hardiman said in his email. “We believe, however, that these measures, while they may seem inconvenient, will help ensure the safest possible environment for our students, faculty and staff.”
Detective Sgt. Philip Tansey is overseeing the investigation, along with Sgt. Olivia Silva. Anyone with information about the threat may contact detectives directly at 978-774-1388, Ouellette said.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.