‘Scary is a strong emotion’: Hilton recovers after three bomb threats

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HILTON, N.Y. – It’s been one week since bomb threats were first sent out against Hilton Schools, targeting all buildings and the superintendent. Since then, there have been two similar threats.

It takes an emotional toll on everyone: Students, parents and teachers. An investigation is ongoing, with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI.

In the meantime, Superintendent Casey Kosiorek says it’s going to take some time for their community to heal from this. What made these threats stand out from others was the fact that it was sent to media outlets before anyone else.

It targeted specific administrators, and even listed their addresses. Police say all were hoaxes and seem to be over a controversial book in the library.

The first threat especially, caused a lot of panic. We saw dozens of parents pick up their kids. Superintendent Casey Kosiorek says a lot of trauma has resulted from this. He’s talked to many students throughout the week, who are all in different places, emotionally.

“Some are doing very well, they have a great support system around them, with the school as well, others have not,” says Kosiorek. “We have had some families not return because they’re not comfortable yet, either way it’s their right. We believe it’s a safe place, but we understand the emotional toll this has had on people as well.”

Dr. Josh Andrzejewski is a psychologist and clinical evaluator with Rochester Regional Health. He says threats like this can cause a lot of panic for people of all ages. Combine that with national headlines, like the recent tragedy in Nashville, and many may associate school with fear.

“One strategy that can be useful is limiting media exposure,” says Andrzejewski. “If a person or child especially is feeling overwhelmed.”

Other coping ideas are practicing relaxation activities and knowing it’s normal to feel emotions. If your student can continue staying involved in their hobbies and sports teams that can help too.

But sometimes, those younger ones can be full of questions. In that case Dr. Andrzejewski says they may need a safe space to talk.

“I think it’s important to allow them to do that, at whatever level is appropriate for them,” he explains.

Dr. Kosiorek says some students may appear to be carrying on as usual, but it doesn’t mean they’re not stressed. The most important thing is reaching out when you need help.

“We spent a lot of time prior to any incident like this, making sure we are connecting out students with staff, making sure there are relationships, so when these things do happen, students have a trusted adult,” explains Kosiorek.

And it’s worth noting other districts around the country have been getting similar threats, appearing from a foreign email domain.

Iowa city community schools closed for two days after receiving threats that mention the same book referenced in the threats against Hilton. 

In Hilton, the book “This is gay” has been checked out twice and is currently on loan to another district. Meanwhile the investigation behind the threats in Hilton continues, and includes the FBI.

The Hilton Teachers’ Union released the following statement:

“The safety of our students and staff is our top priority. School leaders, educators, parents and community members must stand together to ensure that every child has the right to learn in, and teachers have the right to work in, a safe, secure and welcoming environment. We continue to support law enforcement in their efforts to identify and prosecute whoever is responsible for these violent threats.” 

-Pamela Stadtmiller, HCSTA president

Anyone in a mental health crisis can dial 988. The URMC mobile crisis program serves people of all ages and can be reached at (585) 275-8686.

Rochester Regional Health Behavioral Health Access and Crisis Center Program serves people ages 18 and up, available seven days a week 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call (585) 368-3950 for that service.