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BUTLER, Pa. (KDKA) – Every school, teacher and administrator is understandably at a heightened state of awareness in the way of the Parkland, Florida, tragedy.
So, when Butler Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian White’s phone rang last Friday and he heard South Fayette Township Police on the line, “It was just really disturbing. It brought the whole week’s events home.”
The call was to alert Dr. White that his schools had been the target of this threat on Facebook, “Gonna shoot up: Butler JHS, HIS, or Sr. High???”
Police say the message was posted by 2008 Butler graduate Bryan Paul Flecken, who is now 28-years-old. Police say one of Flecken’s post prompted a tip to the Bridgeville Police.
KDKA’s John Shumway Reports:
In the post, Flecken says he’s going to shoot up his former employer and buy 34 guns.
The threat did not name a specific business, but when Bridgeville Police discovered Flecken lives in South Fayette Township, they passed on the tip to the SFPD.
Detectives went to Flecken’s home where SFPD Chief John Phoennik says Flecken claimed, “He didn’t mean anything by it, he was just stupid for doing it. We basically agreed with him that you can’t be doing these things in light of what’s going on in the world today.”
The fact that he was already in custody when the school system found out about the threat was a relief, but a measured one.
“The psychological harm that he caused to an entire community is really disturbing,” says Dr. White.
While Flecken may claim he was not serious and police say he had no weapons, Dr. White decided to tighten up the school district’s already tight security.
“You have to take some action, you have to review your protocols, you have to think through what you want done for your own kids, and you make some judgments very quickly about that. We took the step of adding two additional officers and closing the campus effective today,” he said.
Up until today, Butler area residents have been accustomed to using the campus as a shortcut.
On Monday, officers were stopping every vehicle and making sure only those with school business were coming on campus while the students were in school. Some cars were turned away, but the officers say the drivers were very understanding.
According to a message from Dr. White, “One of our school police officers will be stationed at each entrance. All non-district vehicles will be stopped at both entrances and asked for identification and the purpose of their visit to the campus. Vehicles will no longer be permitted to use Campus Lane as a route between New Castle Road and Fairground Hill Road. Parents will still be able to pick students, but they will be stopped and asked to identify themselves.”
That additional measure of security adds to a campus where “every student, grades four through 12 in Butler Area School, goes through a metal detector every day, and has their bags checked every day,” Dr. White says.
Nineteen retired state troopers make up the school police force and are armed.
Dr. White wishes it wasn’t this way, “It’s scary our society has come to this point.”
He adds when it comes to school safety and social media threats, “There is absolutely no joking, it’s not funny, it’s not humorous, it’s criminal.”
Flecken has been charged with terroristic threats and is in jail. He could face up to five years in prison if convicted.