A series of three unfounded bomb threats in eight days at Cony High School in Augusta has led some parents to keep their students at home and others to question whether the school district is communicating enough with parents.

In the latest incident, on Tuesday, an Augusta police detective at the school investigating the previous threats was told of another message that made an external threat to the school along with the threat of a bomb like the others, Lt. Christopher Massey said. Police locked students inside the school between 12:35 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. while dealing with the potential threat outside the school and evacuated the building afterward, he said.

Police said the three threats were similar in that they were written and referred to a bomb, but police are currently investigating them as three separate incidents, Massey said.

“We have to take them all seriously,” Massey said. “Whether they’re serious threats or people are meaning them jokingly, we can’t differentiate between them.”

In response to the threats, the School Department is holding a public forum at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the high school to discuss the issue.

Multiple phone calls to Superintendent James Anastasio were not returned, and a message left with Cony Principal Kim Silsby was not returned.

Parents have been discussing the threats on the school district’s Facebook page and in the Friends of Augusta Schools Facebook group, many expressing frustration at the situation and what they say is a lack of information from the school district about the threats.

Some parents commenting on posts were confused about what led the school and police to lock the school Tuesday instead of evacuating the students immediately, and others asked about what’s being done to prevent future incidents. Several said they had kept their children home Wednesday because they or their children were scared, while others said they wanted to leave their children at home but had to send them to school.

Heather Hinkley, who has an eighth-grade son at Cony and another son at Hussey Elementary School, said her eighth-grade son stayed at home Wednesday, and she wasn’t sure if he would be going to school Thursday. She said she wants to attend the meeting Thursday to find out more, but she’ll be at her younger son’s graduation at Hussey.

Hinkley and her husband, Randy Hinkley Jr., tried calling the school and the school district after Tuesday’s threat to get more information about what is being done to keep the students safe, but they never heard back, she said. If she had spoken with someone from the school, Hinkley said, she might have sent her son to school Wednesday.

“Are we just supposed to throw them back in school today,” Hinkley asked, “and just say, ‘Oh, you’ll be fine’?”

She said it was scary for some children to see the police with their guns out when the school was evacuated Tuesday, but she was glad the police responded the way they did. Hinkley said when students were evacuated to the Augusta Civic Center during the first threat, on June 2, the scene was chaotic. Teachers didn’t know what was going on or where all the children were, she said.

“There was pushing and shoving. It was a nightmare,” she said. “When the police stepped in (Tuesday), they took control, and I’m so thankful for that. They did an amazing job.”

Silsby, Cony’s principal, said in an email Tuesday to the Kennebec Journal that procedural changes have been made at the school, including asking students to sign in and out of classrooms and staff members increasing their presence in public areas.

“Whenever a school has a threat, the learning is disrupted,” Silsby said in an email. “Teachers and staff are doing their best to keep our learning community as normal as possible.”

Massey said Augusta police officers on patrol also have been stopping by the school to be more visible since the threats, and the Police Department is working with the school to take every precaution they can to keep everybody safe.

“We’re working diligently trying to follow up leads to try and find out who’s responsible for these,” Massey said.

In December, after threatening emails shut down Windham and Raymond schools for three days, the spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Education said the state had received reports of five bomb scares in Maine districts that year. Police later charged a 16-year-old Windham boy with felony terrorizing for allegedly sending the emails.

Pat Hinckley, transportation and facilities administrator for the state education department, declined Wednesday to release the number of bomb threats Maine schools have received, saying state law protects information collected or compiled relating to security plans, security procedures and risk assessments from being disclosed.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

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Twitter: @pdkoenig