State warns of school bus threats

04/06/2011 2:36 PM |

The state Education Department calls it “a non-credible threat,” but still advises school districts to take precautions in the wake of threatened terrorist activity involving school buses, state office buildings and the  State Legislature.

The threat was received by state officials and some members of the media from an unknown email account, according to education department officials.

In a letter emailed Wednesday to district superintendents, associate education commissioner Ken Slentz and assistant commissioner Charles Szuberla Jr. wrote: “Although authorities are treating this threat seriously and continue to investigate, they are not considering this a credible threat at this time.”

The state advises that “suspicious activity or communications” should be reported to the New York State Intelligence Center at 1-866-723-3697.

Local school districts responded by calling and/or sending notices to parents and speaking with bus drivers who work either for individual districts or for Sunrise Coach, which serves the schools here.

The Sunrise Coach Lines in Greenport, which provides school bus service to most Southold Town districts, has made all of its employees aware of the threat and is asking bus drivers to be extra-vigilant in their daily morning inspections of their buses, a company official said.

Sunrise buses are not kept in a gated lot and cannot be locked, he said, adding that drivers already take their daily safety inspections seriously because of those inherent insecurities.

“No matter what your gut tells you, you have to take it seriously,” New Suffolk Superintendent Robert Feger said. “Our bus drivers know all of our children.”

Calls were made to Greenport parents to “alert them, but not alarm them,” said Superintendent Michael Comanda. He also has spoken to bus drivers, Sunrise Coach officials and Southold Police Capt. Martin Flatley about the threat and said district officials will “step up our vigilance” and remind parents to be cautious and vigilant.

Similarly, Southold Superintendent David Gamberg said he has notified parents and bus drivers to take extra precautions and has spoken to officials at Sunrise who were reviewing their policies to assure that students are safe.

Mattituck-Cutchogue Superintendent Jim McKenna sent a telephone message out to parents mid-day Tuesday, despite receiving word Tuesday morning from education department that the threat was not considered credible.

“We’re on guard. No threat was made directly to the district,” he said. “We’re cautioning vigilance and the reporting of suspicious behavior. It gives us a chance to review our safety procedures and protocols.”

The Oysterponds school sent out a similar phone message to parents Tuesday.