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Students arriving at Bayside High School last Thursday morning found a cavalcade of police cars outside their school in response to an anonymous threat left on the principal's voice mail the night before.
Principal Judith Tarlo said in a letter to students that the caller threatened "the safety and security of our school community" but did not elaborate.
Officer Santo Elardo of the 111th Police Precinct's community affairs unit said the phone message, left by what sounded like a young adult male, made reference to school shootings such as the one at Columbine High School.
"He was talking about taking out teachers and students," said Elardo, although the caller did not specify exactly how he intended to do so.
The school referred all questions about the threat to city Department of Education officials, who sent a copy of Tarlo's letter to the TimesLedger.
The principal said she immediately notified police, Queens High School Superintendent John Lee and the PTA upon learning of the threat.
"Although there was no threat of explosives last night, police searched the entire building," the letter read.
"The school building was locked down last night (March 12) and police watch was maintained all night until additional security arrived this morning," the letter continued.
Police from the 111th Precinct, Patrol Borough Queens North, the Queens Task Force and the Division of School Safety were seen patrolling outside of the school last Thursday morning.
School Safety officers checked students with metal detector wands on their way into the school. Nearly everyone appeared to be back in class by 10 a.m.
"Please be advised that any individual or individuals responsible for this threat will be pursued to the full extent of the law," Tarlo said in her letter.
It was unclear how long students would be systematically checked for weapons. Robert Broncatello, director of security at the Queens high school superintendent's office, said Bayside High School might implement a regular metal detection system in the future.
Bayside High senior Ben Chan, 17, arrived at school late and appeared bewildered by the police presence.
"It makes me not want to go," said Chan.
Bayside High School ranked 10th on a list of the city's 10 most dangerous schools compiled by the Police Department last year, despite posting the largest decline in overall crime.
Critics of the list said it was misleading because it reflected high rates of crime reporting among some schools and included incidents that occurred off the campus.
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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