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Police say no threat at Cardozo

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The school, with the help of detectives from the 111th Police...

By Jennifer Warren

A student threatened to bring a gun onto school grounds to shoot one or more classmates at Cardozo High School in Bayside last week, but Principal Rick Hallman said no weapon was involved.

The school, with the help of detectives from the 111th Police Precinct, found the student in question and determined that the threat was “not at all substantiated,” said Hallman.

The threat was “words only — no weapon at all,” the principal said.

The student, who is a sophomore and was not identified because of her age, was suspended for “a number of days,” Hallman said. The disciplinary action was taken at the principal’s discretion based on the school chancellor’s code of discipline.

Sgt. Robert Pace from the 111th Precinct said the threat had “no substance to it.”

Jessica Pannuccio, a junior at Cardozo who believes she was the one of the targets of the threat, said she was called out of class and questioned about the student who made the statements.

“Two of us were called down to the dean’s office,” Pannuccio said. “We said we were leaving. The security guard took us in a room and said wait here till she’s found.”

The incident began when three students were speaking with each other in a classroom, the principal said. At that time the threat was made, he said.

But according to a Cardozo student who wished to remain anonymous the threat was made merely a sarcastic rebuttal to a comment that the sophomore girl was a member of “the trenchcoat mafia.” When a classmate asked if she was going to storm the school armed with a gun, the girl who was later suspended replied that she would and that she had a hit list.

“It was out of sarcasm. It didn’t mean anything. She was just playing,” said the student who asked not to be named.

“We don’t know what was originally the intent of the conversation. We do know that the words were said,” Hallman said.

The two students involved in the initial conversation with the sophomore girl later discussed it while walking home from school. Their conversation was overheard by a third student, who brought it to the attention of the police the next morning, Hallman said.

The principal said there was no evacuation of the school and no disruption of the regular schedule. It was a business as usual except for “very close and careful questioning” of the students involved in the incident, he said.

But Pannuccio’s mother recounted the day differently.

Mary Ellen Pannuccio said teachers and students devised their own plan of safety even though there was no formal emptying of the school.

“Teachers were locking their doors during the classes and half the school took it upon themselves to leave,” the elder Pannuccio said.

The student who asked not to be named said there was a large exodus of students from the school that day, but she attributed much of it to teenagers trying to escape class rather than seeking safety.

“This is a very real threat that’s going on today,” Pannuccio’s mother said, referring to the rash of school shootings which have shaken the country over the past few years. In the spring of 1999 two students at Columbine HS in Littleton, Colo., shot and killed 13 victims and earlier this month a sophomore at Santana HS in San Diego, Calif. killed two students and injured 11 others in a shooting spree.

“Everyday my daughter goes to school now my heart is in my throat,” the elder Pannuccio said.

She also expressed frustration that when she called the school and the precinct repeatedly for information about the possible threat against her daughter, no information was given to her.

“I got nowhere,” she said.

Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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