A near-capacity crowd consisting predominantly of parents filled the Pickerington High School Central auditorium Feb. 24 for a "Parent/Community Meeting" called in the wake of threats made last week against the school and its students.

A near-capacity crowd consisting predominantly of parents filled the Pickerington High School Central auditorium Feb. 24 for a "Parent/Community Meeting" called in the wake of threats made last week against the school and its students.

School officials used the hour-long meeting to talk about the threats, which forced school lockdowns, evacuations on Feb. 18 and 19, and student searches prior to school Feb. 20. They also described steps taken to improve security at the school and ensure all students are accounted for during classes.

"We are in this together and we are a community, and what we find is the school's problems are the community's problems and the community's problems are the school's problems," said Central principal M. Scott Reeves. "This is what educators call a teachable moment."

Reeves said three female students were removed from Central Feb. 24 for allegedly calling in bomb threats and penning a note found in the school on Feb. 19 that said four fellow students would be killed.

He wouldn't provide the students' names or grades, but said they admitted their actions to a school-resource officer after being identified by fellow students as the culprits.

The students now face 10-day suspensions and expulsions of up to 80 days, the maximum penalty afforded school districts by Ohio law.

Since the incidents, Reeves said, nine new security cameras were installed inside Central, bringing the total number of cameras at the school to more than 30. He also said substitute teachers were hired to provide hallway security throughout the building, hall passes were restricted to emergency situations and a system was instituted to account for students granted hall access during classes.

Additionally, Reeves said, the district, police and fire officials have streamlined response policies for future threats and a program to address student issues and angst would be reinstated.

Most of the policies were greeted with applause. However, some at the meeting were upset with the district's decision to hold classes Feb. 20 in the wake of text-messages the previous evening which threatened an impending shooting.

"We were kind of disappointed school wasn't canceled (Feb. 20), and we did keep our children home," said resident James Smith. "You went in knowing there was a danger."

Joe Rice, a former substitute teacher in the district, said school officials were ignoring racial tensions at the school.

"There's a reason why this is happening, and I don't think it's been addressed," Rice said. "There's this expectation that white guys act like white guys and black guys act like black guys, and that's wrong.

"We all live in this community together. These kids are expecting the worst from one another racially instead of the best."

As of Feb. 24, the district hadn't received any new threats against its schools or students. In addition to the three girls removed from Central, PLSD Superintendent Karen Mantia said two Ridgeview Junior High students were suspended for making a "copy-cat" threat similar to the one made against students at Central.

Also, a 17-year-old male student was removed from Central after allegedly destroying two school transportation vans at Central, damaging four outbuildings and marking the exterior of the school's building with graffiti. Police and school officials said the boy committed the crimes with 18-year-old Christopher Hoar of Pickerington, who on Feb. 23 was charged with eight felonies related to the incidents. He was placed in the Fairfield County jail with a $75,000 bail.

Police and school officials said the van arsons and vandalism were not related to the threats at the schools.