Treatment ordered for student who spurred lockdown

The Warren Area High School student who wrote a threatening note that caused the school to be locked down for about two hours on March 24 will serve up to 90 days in a treatment facility.

The 16-year old student, who was adjudicated on juvenile charges at an open hearing Thursday, has spent the last 25 days at Pathways Shelter Care facility in Oil City. He will finish out the school year, and perhaps more, at Pathways’ short-term male residential program, also located in Oil City.

In his judgment, Judge Gregory Hammond said the residential program is the “least restrictive setting” appropriate to the case.

At Thursday’s disposition hearing, Michael Lion of Warren County juvenile probation, testified about the incident and the student. He said the student was enrolled in tenth-grade, mainstream classes at the high school at the time of the incident. The student was suspended by Warren County School District for 10 days, referred to the district’s alternative education program, and referred to the district’s hearing officer.

After an investigation into the threat incident, he was taken into custody by Pennsylvania State Police and turned over to juvenile probation. According to Lion, it was his first run-in with the juvenile justice system.

Lion said the student had amassed a total of 17 disciplinary incidents during the 2013-2014 school year prior to the threatening letter and admitted to being easily annoyed by teachers and other students.

While he has been in Pathways, the student has had no reported discipline problems and is carrying about an 80 percent average. According to Lion, he had been failing five of seven classes at Warren Area High School.

The student told doctors and probation officials he did not know why he wrote the letter, according to Lion. But he did say the act was “stupid and impulsive.”

“He had no intent to actually carry out and he is remorseful,” Lion said of the student’s responses.

According to Lion, the student has been diagnosed with disruptive behavior disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder through psychiatric evaluation since the incident.

The student’s parents testified that they have received “a wake up call” and will cooperate with treatment and counseling requirements and recommendations as well as instituting more meaningful punishments at home.

The student’s attorney, Michelle Alaskey, cited his behavior and academic performance during his time in shelter care in requesting that he be released from Pathways and served locally by Beacon Light and Forest-Warren Human Services. “I don’t believe it is necessary to keep him in placement,” she said. “Use the resources we have available in Warren County.”

Assistant District Attorney Rick Hernan said the goal of the juvenile justice system is “balanced and restorative justice” for both the juvenile and the community, whereas it previously had been “concerned only with the best interest of the child.”

Hernan said he didn’t believe the student intended to carry out the threat, but the severity of the threat itself was a concern. “The thing that he did – threaten to kill all the people in the school – just the threat of doing that was very disruptive,” he said. “He needs, in our opinion, to get back on track. We don’t believe the best needs of the community and the child are going to be served” by returning him to the community and the school immediately.

The judge ruled the student delinquent on one count of felony terroristic threats and one count of misdemeanor disorderly conduct. And he agreed with Hernan regarding disposition or sentencing.

“I believe (the student) when he said it wasn’t his intention to hurt anybody,” Hammond said.

In adjudicating the student to Pathways, Hammond said, “to throw (the student) back into the high school where this occurred does not make any sense.”

Doing so would cause a disruption at the school, he said.

“The goal isn’t to get (the student) back into the community as possible,” he said. Rather, it is to prepare him to return to the community safely for the long-term.

He said the support systems, including counseling, are not immediately in place for the student locally. “The options are – immediate return to the educational setting where this occurred… or take a more measured approach, get the intensive treatment that the psychiatrist recommended.”

He said the choice of placement at Pathways was the obvious one.

“It’s my opinion all or most of the objectives (suggested by juvenile probation) could be met by about the time school gets out,” Hammond said.

In addition to the placement, Hammond sentenced the student to supervision by juvenile probation and Warren County children and youth services, submit to random tests of his “blood, breath, or urine,” pay $58.50 in fees for programs, another $5 if juvenile probation assigns him community service, participation in the victim awareness program, and to submit to the medical and counseling programs prescribed by the psychiatrists at Pathways and Beacon Light. “I think it is appropriate (the student) should gain and maintain part-time, meaningful employment” during the summer.

The student’s parents will also participate in the active parenting of teens class and in Beacon Light’s multi-systemic therapy program.

The student’s DNA and fingerprints will be submitted to the Pennsylvania State Police.

The adjudication will be submitted to PennDOT which will result in a six-month drivers license suspension.

Hammond addressed the student directly at the end of the adjudication. “You should be commended for doing as well as you are doing at Pathways,” he said. “I’ve heard from two parents who care deeply about you – are fully on board to make sure you return safely to the community.”

“It probably seems like forever, but we’re talking about seven or eight weeks when we’re talking about your long-term success as an adult and a juvenile,” Hammond said.