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Lower Merion School District


Message from Ms. Shafer about Text Messaging Incident at Bala Cynwyd Middle School

On Wednesday night, April 13, 2023, I participated in a meeting with the Bala Cynwyd Middle School community, where we discussed an incident that occurred before spring break, when a few students received text messages that included threatening language. At the time, Lower Merion Police joined LMSD in investigating the threats, and concluded that no credible threat to the safety of the school community ever existed related to those text messages.

Nonetheless, the incident understandably caused concern among BCMS students, staff and parents/guardians. At the meeting, BCMS Principal Jeffrey Hunter, I and other administrators answered questions and shared additional information to the extent that we were able regarding the incident. I wanted to share that information more widely, with our whole LMSD Community, because it is likely that the concerns expressed are not unique to families whose children attend that one school.

Requests Regarding Details of Incident and Related Disciplinary Action: As we explained to those who attended the meeting, to protect the privacy of the children involved, specific information regarding incidents like what occurred at BCMS and the subsequent consequences cannot be shared with community members beyond the students who were involved and their families. This protection is required by law under FERPA and, because there is no credible threat to the school community, there is no applicable exception to FERPA. Consequently, we will not be sharing the names of the students who sent the text messages, nor details of disciplinary and support measures that have been put in place to ensure the safety of all students.

District Threat-Assessment Procedures:  Dr. Adil Nure,  Lead Supervisor of Clinical Services & Gifted Education, explained that when a threat is reported to District personnel, the building threat assessment team conducts a threat assessment using the Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines (CSTAG). CSTAG is a research-based model designed expressly for schools. This process is a collaborative and integrative approach in which multiple data points are considered and various staff members and outside agencies, including law enforcement when indicated, are involved. The process supported the conclusion that no credible threat ever existed.

Lower Merion Police Department: LMSD involves the police department in matters that may constitute a crime or otherwise potentially threaten the health and safety of our students. We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Lower Merion Police Department, which is available on our website and reviewed biennially. Questions regarding matters referred to the police or their procedures can be directed to ­­­­­LMPD’s non-emergency number: 610-649-1000.

General Policies and Procedures Regarding Disciplinary Practices:  Our District’s behavior expectations can be found in Policy/Administrative Regulation 235 and in our school handbooks. Schools review these expectations with students periodically throughout the year. Consequences for misconduct are also outlined in the Policy/Administrative Regulation 235 as well as opportunities for restorative practices. According to our Administrative Regulation, factors that are considered in connection with the application of discipline are “the severity of the infraction(s), the age of the student, the student’s current and prior disciplinary record (including any history of repeat infractions), special circumstances about the incident, including whether the student was an aggressor or victim, as well as any applicable laws or regulations, including, but not limited to, those related to the discipline of students with disabilities. The school’s administrative team has the right to determine how to apply disciplinary consequences under the circumstances.”

Restorative Practices:  Restorative practices is not discipline. Rather, restorative practices is a field within the social sciences that studies how to strengthen relationships between individuals as well as social connections within communities. In restorative practices, staff work with students throughout the year to build a sense of belonging because we know that when students feel connected to their school’s community and culture, behaviors are improved. In addition, when there is an incident that causes harm to the community, a restorative approach means an attempt is made for students to fully understand what their role was in the conflict and how their actions affected themselves and others. Students then take ownership in the process by trying to “make it right” with others who were affected.

Student Support:  Students who are impacted by bullying, threatening or other behaviors should immediately report their experiences. In an emergency, call the Lower Merion Police by dialing 911. You can also use the Safe2Say Something anonymous reporting system or the LMSD Reporting Form, found at If your student has concerns about this incident, please urge them to reach out to the principal, assistant principal or their school counselor for support in school.

In my limited time in my current role, I have talked openly and repeatedly about mental health, wellness and the impact of social media on our students. I will continue to prioritize safety alongside these issues moving forward and will work to ensure that our entire community can continue to have dialogue and build trust around these areas for the benefit of all of our students. I look forward to working collaboratively with you to ensure a safe and welcoming school culture for all students and staff.

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