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Amherst Superintendent Speaks on January Threat and Bullying

AMHERST, Mass. (WGGB) — After four weeks of investigation, including reviews of written statements, social media posts, and interviews with parents, students and teachers Amherst Regional Public Schools superintendent confirms the January 27th threat was rooted in bullying and racial harassment.

The school was shut down for a day, after made a threatening social media post about bringing a gun to school.

“We looked fully at bullying, we looked fully at racial harassment, and we did find behaviors that were indicative of both. We have now addresses those circumstances for students involved, as well as educational intervention,” explained Superindent Maria Geryk.

Because of the nature of the situation and the ages of the students involved, school authorities say they can’t reveal their identities, the exact disciplinary measures taken against them, or any details of the alleged bullying. But what they do acknowledge is the unique role social media played in this incident, and is a new hurdle when dealing with students and their conflicts.

“There is a human disconnect there, that people feel free to say those things, and once you say them, they are there,” said Geryk.

Oliva Holcomb, who has younger siblings and family members who are students at Amherst Regional High School, agrees, “That’s what leads to bullying, because people are scared, and cowards, and insecure, and they feel they can fully express themselves behind a screen.”

Once the threat was discovered, school was closed, and parents and family members were notified.

“My aunt was absolutely terrified. I wasn’t scared, because they took precautionary measures,” said Holcomb.

Geryk says while some people were surprised by the response, she and her staff did what needed to be done.

“We worked closely with our local police, we had bomb and weapon dogs come through our schools. Now that is an extreme response, however i wanted to be 100% sure i could say to our parents that our children are safe in our schools,” Geryk said.

Moving forward, the superintendent would like to further address bullying in the schools on a day to day basis.

“How do we help our kids to learn about inclusiveness, how do we create a positive culture, and how do we support our staff,” noted Geryk.

Geryk adds that it’s business as usual in all Amherst regional schools, and all students are safe inside the schools.

While she can’t comment on the disciplinary measures against the students involved, Superintendent Geryk did say they will undergo an educational intervention.

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