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Children have a second school day disrupted by anonymous bomb threat in Hilton

Max Schulte
Hilton High School

For the second time this week, an anonymous email was sent to WXXI and other local media outlets, threatening to bomb buildings in the Hilton Central School District and the home of district Superintendent Casey Kosiorek.

And again, authorities searched and found nothing.

The email sent shortly before 8 a.m. Friday stated that Molotov cocktails would be thrown into the district's office. Wednesday's email stated that pipe bombs had been placed in school buildings throughout the district. A Batavia address listed in the email as Kosiorek's home was incorrect.

Both emails decried library materials the sender deemed pornographic. The Wednesday email specifically referenced an LGBTQ-themed book that some parents and others in the district have recently lobbied to get removed from the high school library.

"There is nothing that leads us to believe this is a local individual or a local group," Monroe County Sheriff Capt. Pat Rojas said Friday, adding: "This seems to be a series of emails being sent to other jurisdictions around the country."

Rojas could not point to specific jurisdictions. And it was not immediately clear if he was speaking of a recent trend or that this fits into a larger issue of people targeting communities from afar based, possibly, on what they are seeing on social media.

On Friday, Kosiorek talked about the importance of library materials like, "This Book is Gay," which was specifically referenced in Wednesday's email.

"The value of having those types of pieces of literature are for students who may be just learning who they are as a person," he said. "They may be uncomfortable going to a parent. They may be uncomfortable going to someone else. They can privately go to this literature, and they can start to identify, 'Hey, I'm feeling this way. Other people feel this way. This is the way that I was born as a human being.'"

Kosiorek said he sent a message to his staff Friday ensuring they are touching base with students, staff and family who are part of the LGBTQ community, to try and ensure they feel safe.

"We need to remind people that this is public education," he said. "That means our doors are open to everyone who lives in our community. And it is extremely important ... that students of all different backgrounds, origins, identifications, feel welcome."

On Wednesday, the emailed threat resulted in more than 5,000 students and staff being evacuated from their schools. On Friday, the district said some elementary school students would be held on their buses. One school's opening was delayed by two hours, and Merton Williams Middle School and the high school were on lockout. Classes ultimately resumed and after-school activities were held as scheduled after authorities cleared each school building.

Kosiorek said the district must be prepared for the potential of more, potentially baseless threats to come.

"If we know that these threats are not real threats, we need to look at how we can communicate and how we can consider having students come to school," he said, "because it is not a viable option to continue to can cel or to delay school or put students on buses."

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.
Brian Sharp is WXXI's investigations and enterprise editor. He also reports on business and development in the area. He has been covering Rochester since 2005. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.
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