EAST HAVEN, Conn. — There is an increased police presence at all schools in East Haven until the end of the school year after a middle school student was arrested for threatening other students online at Joseph Melillo Middle School.
Parents were on edge dropping their children off at school Tuesday morning, but for many, seeing police outside helped calm their nerves.
"A lot of kids here are watching what their parents watch so I believe it’s a parent problem too," said Drazen Dadic, a parent in the school urging parents to monitor their children's behavior.
In response to the threat, school officials are asking parents to help monitor their kids' social media at home, but some parents said more has to be done.
"I think it’s wonderful, the best thing they could ever do. I was afraid to send my daughter to school today. I wanted to keep her home but she didn’t want to stay home," said Patricia Smeriglio, a parent of a middle school student. "I don’t think there’s anything parents can do. These kids are going to snap when they are going to snap. I don’t think there’s any signs or symptoms or anything it’s just one of those things that happens."
"In East Haven, we need mental health services. Our town council doesn’t fund it and we have a lot of issues with families that are in need," said Lorena Venegas, another parent.
East Haven Police Captain Joseph Murgo said while monitoring children's behavior can be a team effort within the school community, checking social media in your home really goes a long way in stopping potential violence.
"Parents are the first line of defense. We ask if you observe distant behavior or revenge fantasies or anything that is concerning don’t overlook it," said Captain Murgo. "Parents really do have a responsibility to see who your children are talking to, what kind of pages are they seeing, what kind of content are they sharing and engaging with? These are tell-tale signs to prevent a tragedy from happening."
It's a large task at hand and one that some experts are now calling on social media companies to step in and help.
"I think parents working with schools, working with police, working with community agencies and also social media sites and companies need to take a role as well," said David Myers, a professor in the Criminal Justice Department at the University of New Haven.
The student appeared in New Haven Juvenile Court on Tuesday. Police say the student and the family did cooperate with police.
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