ITHACA, N.Y. — A small but determined group of high school students gathered in the Commons Monday morning to protest the response by officials regarding a mass shooting someone threatened to carry out at Ithaca High School.

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Carrying homemade signs made on pizza boxes, at least a dozen students from Ithaca High School and Lehman Alternative Community School protested.

Sophomore Mikayla Skierski, 15, said her friend posted a Facebook status regarding feminism and began arguing with a male junior at IHS. Skierski said her friend showed her a screenshot of the post.

“He had threatened to kill her and shoot up everyone in the school,” she said.

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In an email parents received Sunday, school officials said the student accused of making the threat will not be in school this week.

Police said Monday morning that officials are still investigating the incident, no arrests have been made and an increased police presence will be on campus all week.

Skierski said students who attended the protest Monday were upset because:

  1. She said students they know who’ve committed more minor offenses, such as having small amounts of marijuana at school, have been suspended for weeks.
  2. The school did not tell students or parents that there was a threat of a mass shooting at the high school, only that a threat had been made against a student and others at the school.

Skierski said she had permission from her step-dad to not attend class today because she thought it was possible that a shooting or violent act could happen.

Freshman Sage Smith, 14, said he found out about the shooting threat via text messages from friends — something several of the attendees said.

Despite the email sent to parents from the school, students said that committing that the threat of violence was a mass shooting was misleading.

Smith said he asked his parents to not come to school today and they said he had to attend.

“They thought it was nothing,” Smith said. “They said if it was such a big deal, the school would have closed.”

He opted to skip class and attend the protest instead, anyway.

Several students questioned how the school knew there was not a threat to students when police were still investigating the incident.

“You don’t joke about shooting up the school,” Skierski said.

Students gather outside of Center Ithaca Monday morning. (Photo by Jolene Almendarez)

Freshman Rachel O’Brien, 14, said she didn’t feel like the school was taking the threats seriously. She said that the extra police presence on campus was both a good and bad thing — good because officers will be on hand in case a violent incident happens.

“It’s also going to make everything a lot more tense,” she said.

O’Brien said she thinks the week-long ban from campus isn’t sufficient, not only because she’s seen people get more punishment for seemingly lesser crimes, but because it could cause the student to go back to school more angry than he was when he made the threats.

Officer Jamie Williamson, of the Ithaca Police Department, said the threats are still being investigated and there have been no arrests or charges regarding the the incident as of Monday morning.
Ithaca High School did not return a request for comment by publication time.

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.