This is a corrected version of this editorial. The initial version indicated that school surveillance footage showed Gabriel Lambert spent an hour in the bathroom where the threats were reportedy found. That is not the case. In fact, surveillance footage showed Lambert in several areas of the school for an hour, including a limited amount of time entering and exiting the rest room.
To some, the order from Salem District Court Judge Matthew Machera that 17-year-old Gabriel Lambert stay away from Manchester Essex Middle/High School, be confined to his Danvers home while wearing a monitoring bracelet and undergo a mental health evaluation may seem harsh, considering that the Danvers teen, who attends Manchester Essex under the state’s school choice program, has only been arraigned, not convicted, on criminal charges of making threats on the school last month, four days after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre.
And it’s important to note that Lambert has denied the allegations — despite school officlals’ gathering of handwriting samples and video footage showing Lambert visiting severa parts of the school over a period of an hour, including time in a the boys’ second-floor bathroom before he himself reported finding the words “Everyone dies 12/19/12. No Mercy,” and “Don’t obey their policies” in the same room.
Yet, Judge Machera clearly put the safety of Manchester Essex students at the forefront, and rightfully drives home a key point: If incidents such as this are meant to be “pranks” – and there are, sadly, some who believe they are — there is nothing even remotely cute or funny about them.
Indeed, it seems obvious that the threats played a key role in leading 125 students to stay home from school on the 19th, some three times the typical absentee rate within the 486-student high school. And school officials deserve credit for taking the threats very seriously – as did police and school officials in Gloucester, where reports of an alleged bathroom wall threat regarding a student bringing a gun to school prompted dozens of parents to pull their kids out of classes there on Dec. 21. While unable to definitely rule on Lambert’s guilt or innocence, Judge Machera found the surrounding facts sufficient to take the actions he did. And school officials found the threat significant enough to warrant pulling handwriting samples and checking surveillance tape in the case.
That shows just one thing – that they have given this case the attention and priority it needs.