By Peter Becker
HAWLEY - Although the college student claims it was a "joke," a comment made in reference to Columbine led to the closing of Lackawanna College Lake Region Center Thursday, Feb. 7.
The school occupies the third floor of the Hawley Silk Mill.
Trooper Daniel Kimes, Pa. State Police at Honesdale, said that the female student, who was not identified but said to be from the Lake Region area, made the comment to another student in class during the day on Wednesday. Another student later quoted her by posting the comment on his Facebook page, adding "can you believe" what she had said.
Another classmate in turn read this on Facebook and alerted their teacher at about 9 p.m. that evening, Trooper Kimes said.
State Police were contacted and the investigation began. The trooper said that the female student who allegedly made the comment was interviewed, insisted that she was joking and there was no substance to it.
A statement issued by Lackawanna College on Thursday morning reported that the Lake Region Center of Lackawanna College would be closed that day due to an "abundance of caution" following the verbal threat made by the student.
College officials, in consultation with the State Police in Honesdale, made the decision late Wednesday evening to close the Center. Only the Lake Region Center was affected. The College's Scranton, Hazleton, Towanda and New Milford Centers continued to operate under normal schedules. It was anticipated the Lake Region Center would operate on a normal schedule Friday, Feb. 8, college officials said.
"Although the case continues to be investigated, a female student has been identified as the source of the alleged threat. She has been removed from class pending the outcome of the investigation and Lackawanna College will act in accordance with its published Student Code of Conduct. Charges will be filed by the college if the investigation warrants," the statement from the college reads. "Lackawanna College has zero tolerance for any threatening behavior and plans to fully cooperate with local authorities in prosecuting this case, as warranted."
Paul Strunk, Vice President for College Advancement, commented, "Even really good kids do dumb things from time to time, but we have to do what we have to do. It can't be taken lightly."
There is a consequence for actions. Strunk noted that closing school the next day disrupts nearly 250 students who had paid for instruction, and teachers who had made lesson plans and now need to catch up. On top of that, Friday had the potential of being a "snow day" with classes cancelled due to a storm.
In this day and age, Strunk observed, one has to be careful even how they jest.
The Wayne County District Attorney's Office was notified, Trooper Kime said, adding that additional students needed to be interviewed.
Trooper Kimes stated that a search of the building was not made. Late in the evening, business tenants in the Hawley Silk Mill were notified by e-mail of the security issue at the college, and in a second email that night, reported that the situation had been cleared.