Student Arrested For 'Disturbing Paper'

The issue became public when the student posted the essay — which speaks of a Columbine-type shooting spree — to Facebook.

A sophomore at East Greenwich High School was arrested last week after submitting an essay that Principal Michael Podraza called "threatening in nature."

The essay, which a parent said a student posted to Facebook on April 6, spoke of carrying a gun into a high school with a “glass facade” and shooting first a police officer posted at the school and then some students. After three paragraphs it ended, with a “to be continued” line.

According to an email sent out on the EGHS listserve to parents Sunday, Principal Michael Podraza said administrators took action as soon as they learned of the essay.

“East Greenwich police were immediately notified, and took immediate action against the individual who made the threat,” Podraza wrote in the email to parents. “This person will face serious consequences, both in and out of school, as a result.”

As of Sunday night, it was not known what the student had been charged with or when he was arraigned.

Podraza decided to go public with news of the incident after learning the student had posted the essay online.

“We have recently become aware that this individual has posted the paper to a social media site making it available for many more to see, furthering the disturbance,” Podraza continued in his email.

It was the parent of another EGHS student who notified Podraza and police about it on Friday. Her son had alerted her to the student’s Facebook page and the link to the essay. The woman, who asked not to be identified, subsequently sent an email to friends notifying them to the incident and including a copy of the essay.

“I feel the need to make many people aware of this frightening situation, specifically those of us parents with children at EGHS. I implore each of you to kindly forward this to as many people as possible with the request for them to do the same,” the parent wrote in the email.

For the parent who sent the email, she said her goal was to make sure there was heightened security at the high school. Right now, there is a school resource police officer stationed at EGHS on Mondays and Fridays. Coincidental to this incident, school officials and police had been discussing sharing the cost of a fulltime SRO next year.

It was unclear Sunday what actions against the student had been taken. Supt. Victor Mercurio said via email, “While I cannot comment on any specific disciplinary action for any student, please know that our primary focus is always student safety.”

According to both Mercurio and Police Chief Tom Coyle, there will be a police presence at the high school on Monday — “before, during and after school,” wrote Mercurio. No word whether or not that presence would be continued Tuesday.

carolyn April 09, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Though they may have overreacted, it is a good thing the principal took this seriously and possibly averted an awful tragedy. If he had done nothing and a massacre took place then everyone would be upset that he did nothing!
Spring Street April 10, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Hm Steve Brown ! FOS ! Careful what u write on BLOGS ! Best to sit kids down & explain in these times with such horrific attacks in schools, home,business's & public it's best not to post anything that could terrify people. Yes what if ? It's not the old days any longer things have changed . School massacres nationwide have left everyone in fear ! I God Help Us !
Pacman731 April 10, 2012 at 12:38 PM
Elizabeth, I applaud your decision to write about and repost the essay. I can only imagine your thought process about this issue. It is an issue that while touching us locally, reaches far beyond a simple essay (even though we do not know what the assignment was), the actions of the school and local authorities, or the gun control (as someone suggested). The underlying issue is about people, who rightly or wrongly feel marginalized, who feel like they do not fit in or are outsiders in a community or school, or may suffer from biochemical or psychological disorders. There has always been a stigma attached to a person’s mental health. This can be especially true of children and young adults. As an example, a person who suffers from depression, all too often does so in silence unaware of how insidious it can be to have symptoms creep up slowly driving the depression even deeper. Resulting in even a more intense feeling of being marginalized. Much like the drug problem in EG, I think it is time we as parents talk about this amongst ourselves and with our children.
Pacman731 April 10, 2012 at 12:38 PM
I do feel the wording of your pole is somewhat divisive in nature, it should not be about whether or not a child should be arrested for writing a threatening essay (pretty much the only choice the police have). But, should be more along the lines did the authorities respond in an appropriate manner, did the school properly address the issue, were the parents notified, and were the appropriate steps taken to get someone the help it seems they might need. I personally applaud the school, local, and state authorities on how things have been handled and appreciate Mr. Padraza’s sensitive position and how he has handled the situation. Most importantly I hope that this issue provides all of us with a teaching/learning moment and that the school, the community, and we, as parents can openly talk not about this situation and underlying issue. We need to recognize that we are not immune to this type of thing and it is possible that this could happen in our own community or possibly even with our own child. Patrick Craft, parent of an EG senior
Elizabeth McNamara April 10, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Patrick, Thanks for your thoughtful feedback. Writing poll questions is tricky. That said, this question was meant to encourage discussion about words and when, if ever, words are a threat in and of themselves. I agree that none of us are immune.


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