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NAHS students face charges

Two female sophomores face charges of terroristic threats in separate incidents at Northampton Area High School.

Both students are 15 years old and in the 10th grade at NAHS. Their names are not being released because they are juveniles.

“The primary charges were terroristic threats for each one,” Northampton County First Assistant District Attorney Richard H. Pepper said. “Both juveniles were detained and referred to juvenile court authorities for further disposition of the charges.”

All such juvenile detention hearings are not open to the public. The charges will continue to be processed through the juvenile court adjudication system.

“We continued to investigate it,” Northampton Area School District Superintendent of Schools Joseph S. Kovalchik said of the shooting threat at NAHS, in a March 20 phone interview. “And, based on the additional evidence, we referred it to the district attorney’s office, and the district attorney said there was enough evidence to proceed with charges.”

The perceived threat in the form of graffiti scrawled in a bathroom at NAHS stated: “Shooting up School March 14th.”

One of the 10th-grade females was charged with making the shooting threat, which was discovered March 10.

NAHS classes were held remotely March 14 because of the threat. Classes were held in person at NAHS with increased security March 13 and March 15-17.

Another 10th-grade female was charged with making an additional threat March 15.

Kovalchik emailed parents and guardians March 16 about the charges against the female students.

“Today, Thursday, March 16, the district received confirmation from the district attorney’s office that we provided enough evidence to support filing charges against an individual,” Kovalchik said in his email. “The individual [who] was referred will face charges and is not and will not be in school or on school property.

“In addition to the individual who wrote the threat on Friday, another individual who was in the high school yesterday, Wednesday, March 15, posted on social media, ‘they brought the dogs as if them mif (sic) is gonna smell the Glock in my bag.’ This was in reference to the additional police presence and police K-9 in our high school,” Kovalchik reported in the March 16 email.

Kovalchik reported the student did not have a weapon in possession but has also been referred to the district attorney’s office and will face charges. This student will not be in school or on school property.

Kovalchik reiterated the importance of notifying families about safety concerns in the district. He noted the district will always investigate incidents that could create a potentially unsafe school environment, in addition to collaborating with law enforcement.

“I encourage you to speak to your child about the seriousness and consequences of threats and words that potentially can be deemed a safety concern, such as the words that were found in our high school and written on social media over the past several days,” Kovalchik said in the March 16 email.

In the March 20 phone interview, Kovalchik said, “Anytime you receive a threat like this, people are apprehensive on sending their children to school, and they’re scared to a certain degree, and rightfully so.”

According to Kovalchik, the March 13 absentee rate was 12% at NAHS and Northampton Area Middle School and 5% in the elementary schools.

The student absentee rate is typically 6% at NAHS and NAMS and 5% in the elementary schools, Kovalchik said.

While March 14 classes at NAHS were remote, classes were in person at NAMS and district elementary schools. The March 14 absentee rate was 40% at NAMS and 12% at elementary schools, Kovalchik said. Absentee rates were reportedly back to normal March 15-17.

Kovalchik alerted parents and guardians about the NAHS threat in emails sent March 10, 12 and 13. The March 14 closing was announced in the March 13 email.

“I would like to thank the school district police, Pennsylvania State Police and Lehigh and Moore Township police departments for their collaboration, professionalism and attention to detail over the past several days,” Kovalchik said in the email March 16.

There were four NASD school district police department officers and four officers from Pennsylvania State Police and Lehigh and Moore townships for a total of eight law enforcement officers on duty March 13 at NAHS.

There were 10 officers on duty March 15 and 16, including a K-9 patrol from Lehigh Township; six officers March 17; and four NASD police department officers on duty March 20 at NAHS.

After conducting the final student interview March 12 as part of the investigation, Kovalchik and NASD Police Department Chief of Police Will Williams contacted area police departments for additional law enforcement officers to be stationed in the high school.

“After those interviews, I spoke with our district Police Chief Will Williams, and we decided to reach out to the local municipalities and the state police,” Kovalchik said in a March 20 interview.

Northampton Borough and Lehigh and Moore townships have police departments. The state police patrol Allen and East Allen townships.

“Will Williams sent an email Sunday afternoon to all of those entities, including the borough,” Kovalchik said March 20. “I personally text messaged Chief (Bryan) Kadingo from the borough and Chief (Scott) Fogel from Lehigh Township. Chief Williams contacted Chief Gary West from Moore Township. That was early Sunday afternoon. I received a call from Chief Kadingo and Lehigh Township later Sunday afternoon.

“I explained the situation, which was the threat. He (Kadingo) said he was going to try to get manpower to assist,” Kovalchik added. “Later that evening, he sent me a text that he didn’t have any success getting any officers. But all the other entities did have the personnel available to assist.”

Kovalchik said proper procedure and due process must be followed when you have a disciplinary situation in a school district.

“The district will always take every threat [it] receives seriously. And those who are found guilty of making those threats will be held accountable to the fullest extent possible of the law,” Kovalchik said.