District to conduct random searches at C-NS High School

A threatening message found in a girls' bathroom at Cicero-North Syracuse High School has prompted the North Syracuse Central School District to conduct random searches at the school beginning Monday . Now the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says the searches could be a violation of the students' rights.

Acting Superintendent of Schools Wayne Bleau told CNY Central Saturday said the searches will run all next week at C-NS, but did not rule out the possibility of additional searches in the future.

Bleau said the threatening message found in a girls' bathroom by a student on Monday, November 28th, the first day students returned to school from Thanksgiving break. He would not go into detail about what was written, but said the message threatened violence against staff and property on Friday, December 16th.

Bleau said, in essence, it's a bomb threat.

"The kids are fearful," said C-NS parent Ellyn Ostrander. "I don't really know what I'm going to do, they don't want to go to school on Friday."

In a letter sent home to parents on Friday, Bleau said students will be subjected to random searches in compliance with Board of Education policy.

School resource officers will, at random, use walk-though and handheld metal detectors to search students and their personal belongings such as backpacks and purses, the e-mail stated.

"This is a threat of violence and when there is a threat of violence we have to do everything we can to safeguard our students and staff," said Bleau. "We obviously value and understand that people have the right to privacy."

However, Barrie Gewanter, director of the Central New York Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, says without individual suspicion, the random searches of students is a violation of their rights. "The school district can't use a threat as an excuse to rifle through the backpacks and personal belonging of students at random," she says.

Gewater says the ACLU plans to express its concerns about the legality of the random student searches with the North Syracuse School District.

Bleau told CNY Central the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department has been investigating the message since November 28th, and said the threat is considered low-level in nature.

Still, Bleau said the district takes this threat extremely seriously is encourages parents to talk with their children about school safety.