Principal responds to Valley Patriot story on internet death threats

Tom Duggan

NORTH ANDOVER- Last month The Valley Patriot reported a news story on our front page: “Several North Andover Middle School students are being investigated by the North Andover police for personal profiles posted on the AOL Internet service threatening to harm fellow students and naming at least one teacher and a classmate the student pledges to ‘kill.’”
(last month's story)

One of the students being investigated by North Andover Police lists a profile saying that his “life goal” is to “kill Mr. (X) and (name withheld)” a fellow student. Mr. (X) is a teacher at the North Andover Middle School.

“According to documents, in one on-line profile a student promises ‘… and one day im gonna kill somebody so bad there mother will know who it was the second they see there sons skin stapled to a tree and there bones burned in a pit fire I made.’”

Three days after the April edition of The Valley Patriot hit the newsstands, Middle School Principal Joan McQuade sent a letter home to parents addressing the story. Her letter states:

“On Thursday, April 4th, a local paper The Valley Patriot, published an article about students at the North Andover Middle School. The topic was cyber-bullying and threatening. While the paper offered some helpful and logical tips for parents for parents at the end of the article, the headline and allegations written about NAMS’ students are concerning to anyone reading the front page.”

The letter addressed some parents’ concerns that a safety threat currently exists at the school but there was no mention as to what actions, if any, were taken by the police or the school. The letter also did not mention what actions were (or have been) taken to protect the teacher and or students who were threatened by name in the on line chat.

“In this particular situation,” principal McQuade’s letter continues, “standard protocol was followed. In brief, a few weeks ago a parent brought information to the police regarding cyber-bullying and threatening involving some of our students. Officer Castiglione carried out an extensive investigation and made a determination that the students involved made very poor choices; however, the evidence that she gathered indicated a low threat situation. While this is considered an out of school issue, we chose to involve ourselves in partnership with the police for the benefit of our families.”

Sources at the North Andover Middle School say that the students who made the on-line death threats are still attending the school but that classes have been rearranged to segregate the students who were threatened from those making the threats.

Principal McQuade said that the school and the police do collaborate and that, even though some incidents do not take place in school, NAMS’ faculty work closely with police.

 “I’d like to take this opportunity to inform our school community about our collaborative relationship with the North Andover Police Department and the process we have in place for communication,” the letter states. “Standard procedures in any incident that the police and/or NAMS’ administration feels may put student(s) safety at risk, communication is initiated from either the school or police side depending on the circumstances.”

“Officer Tracy Castiglione, our school resource officer, spends at minimum one day here weekly and is always available when needed. Our ultimate goal is to assist our students and their families on any issue that could be viewed as a police or safety matter. Regardless if a situation arises in or outside of school, Officer Castiglione and NAMS’ administration attempt to be as proactive as possible with guiding our parents and students towards appropriate solutions.”

“In closing, I hope I have alleviated safety concerns by explaining the collaborative partnership we share with the NAPD in order to keep our students safe. NAMS’ students, faculty and parents continue to strive to make NAMS’ the best teaching and learning environment possible. We are proud of our school and our students. As always, please do not hesitate to call us with comments or questions.”

“Students with issues of bullying, whether or not it is by computer, phone or in person are encouraged to talk to a guidance councilor or contact officer Tracy Casitglione at the North Andover Police Department.”

For on-line resources on cyber-bullying parents can visit the following websites:

For news tips please email us at valleypatriot@aol.com



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