Juveniles face felonies after talking about ‘blowing up’ St. Mary’s

NORTH VERNON — North Vernon police have arrested two juveniles on Level 6 felony intimidation charges after they were accused of threatening to blow up St. Mary’s Elementary School, a small Catholic elementary school.

Two teens, ages 14 and 15, were arrested Friday after a threat was made to the school Wednesday night, said Sgt. Andrew Richmond, North Vernon Police Department spokesman.

Detective Ivory Sandefur learned Wednesday night of a phone message left on a student’s phone which included a threat to the school. The investigation revealed two juveniles were involved in the threat, one a former St. Mary’s student, Richmond said.

Extra officers were assigned to the school during the investigation as security, Richmond said. After their arrest, the juveniles were detained at the Bartholomew County Youth Services facility, police said.

St. Mary’s, located at 209 Washington St., is affiliated with St. Mary’s Catholic Church in North Vernon and offers classes for students from preschool through eighth grade.

The school has slightly more than 200 students, said the Rev. Jerry Byrd, pastor at the church.

In a telephone interview Friday, Byrd said the school followed the protocol set out by the diocese and immediately called North Vernon police when learning of the threat.

The school also followed protocols by the police department, including having a police presence at the school. He did not know if the school had been searched Wednesday night but said police were handling the safety precautions and school officials were following their direction.

“This is not something we’re used to dealing with,” Byrd said.

The school dismissed for spring break Friday afternoon, and students and staff are not scheduled to return until the first week of April, according to the school calendar.

The North Vernon incident is the latest in a number of school threat investigations in southern Indiana. Since Feb. 20, two threats have been investigated at Columbus East High School, one at Hauser High School and one the Simon Youth Academy at Edinburgh Premium Outlets.

These incidents happened in the wake of a Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida where 17 students or staff members died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A national march is planned today in Washington, D.C., protesting school shootings and demanding government officials enact laws to protect students in the future. A similar march is planned in Indianapolis today.