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January 8, 2013

Local woman charged with child threats

By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

---- — Recent threats over Facebook to do physical harm to various individuals, including children in Walton, led to the arrest Monday of a Walton woman.

Jennifer L. Morris, 27, was arrested on two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. More charges are pending, and the investigation is continuing, Walton police said in a media release.

On Saturday, police received a complaint of unauthorized access in a Facebook account, which led to the following, police said: several more threats were received by other individuals in and around the village and town of Walton. An extensive investigation was conducted with the assistance of Delaware County deputies that led to the arrest.

Walton Police Chief Brian Laauser was not available for comment after the release was received.

Morris was arraigned in Walton Village court and sent to Delaware County jail on $10,000 bail pending further court action.

Walton Central School Interim Superintendent George Mack said the school will return to its regular schedule today.

“We are very thankful to everyone who helped solve the crime,” especially Laauser, who worked with school personnel on procedures. This included a lockout and extra police presence. No outside or after school activities were held. Even so, concern for student safety contributed to an absentee rate of about 50 percent Monday, Mack said. “I understand the concerns.”

But he noted the school was doing everything it could to keep students safe.

Elementary PTA President Jami Aubin said she was relieved to hear the news of the arrest from the school’s automatic notification system. She had heard about the threats from some friends over the weekend. She said she understood it to be against two preschool children. She was concerned, but sent her two children, in second and fifth grade, to school. She said she knew the school would do the right thing and the outcome showed she was right.

She worked Monday at the elementary school as a substitute aide. Students knew something was going on, but the day proceeded without incident. She didn’t receive calls from parents expressing any concerns for their children’s safety.

This was not the first time the school has had to deal with violence, either real or threatened.

In December 1992, high school English teacher Virginia Wilcox was shot in class by a student, after she refused to allow him to read a poem. She recovered but did not return to class. In May 2012, two Walton adults were arrested following an investigation of a student threat about a planned incident at the school. A handgun was recovered from a reservoir but no actual incident occurred.

Mack said today’s hearing for the districtwide safety plan will be held as it was planned in December. It will be at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium. He said he is sure people will want to discuss the situation. If so some time will be allotted to that, but the agenda will be followed to allow for the school board of education meeting that will follow.