Whittier Middle, Tenney School Arrests Test School Safety Responses

J.G. Whittier Middle School in Haverhill (file photograph.)

John Greenleaf Whittier Middle School, Haverhill.

The arrest of a student accused of carrying what appeared to be an air gun Friday at John Greenleaf Whittier Middle School, Haverhill, comes in the wake of two additional students arrested in Methuen late last week for alleged threats against a second school building in that community.

According to a statement released Friday, a male student at Whittier Middle School was observed with what was believed to be a handgun. Haverhill Police removed the student from the building and arrested him. The school resumed normal operation after police reported no further threat to the school following a brief period under a “stay in place mode.”

“It appears the student had an air gun that had a similar appearance to a handgun and also had a folding knife in his backpack,” said Superintendent James F. Scully. “The incident was handled expeditiously and efficiently.”

“The drills and practices that we routinely perform in our school system proved to be of great value and all responses were appropriate,” Scully added. “Everyone was safe during the entire incident that transpired in (a) matter of moments.”

WHAV placed calls to Scully and a Haverhill police spokesperson, however they were not immediately available for further comment.

Meanwhile in Methuen, two male Tenney Middle School students, ages 14 and 13, were arrested by police Friday and charged with making a threat against a school or assembly, according to a statement from Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon. Those arrests were the result of an investigation sparked by Tenney Middle School staff reporting a 14-year-old male student “advised that student not to show up for school on Monday… because he was going to ‘shoot up the school.’” A second Tenney student, a 13-year-old male, had stated that he would supply weapons to the other student. Methuen Police conducted searches at two different residential locations where the suspects live, but “turned up no further evidence.”  Police, however, do not believe that the juveniles had serious intent or the means to do violence at their school.

“Methuen is a progressive community, and we take threats of school violence very seriously,” Solomon said. “There is simply no such thing as joking about shooting up your school. In this day and age, we have to act out of an abundance of caution.”

Methuen’s Friday arrests in followed those of two others, including last Monday’s arrest of a student accused of making a threat against Methuen High School. Another student was also arrested Thursday for allegedly pulling a fire alarm.

“We are troubled and disappointed to have to report a second set of threats made against students at a Methuen school this week,” Solomon said. “We encourage parents to have conversations with their children about the seriousness of making statements like this. Additionally, we ask that parents have discussions with their children and if any of their children have thoughts or fascinations with school shootings we ask that they contact us to assist them with counseling or seek it on their own.”