Graffiti at Commons Construction Site “Not A Credible Threat”

Phillips Academy will be under additional security until Commencement, after threatening graffiti was discovered on the Commons construction site. The message, written on the wall of a portable toilet, read, “Everyone is going to die on 5/30/2008.” May 30 is the last day of classes. Barbara Chase, Head of School said that the Andover Town Police believe that the message poses no imminent danger to the community. The police also believe that the message was written by an employee on-site and not a student or intruder. Additionally, the police think that the message was directed toward site employees and not toward Phillips Academy students. Chase announced the discovery of the message and the subsequent police investigation to faculty, students and staff in meetings early Thursday afternoon. Chase also told the students that if the perpetrator does not come forward before the end of Thursday, the Commons construction site will be “completely closed” through Commencement beginning Friday, though she said that the closure will most likely not affect the reopening of Commons scheduled for Spring 2009. The site was operating normally Thursday, said Todd McCabe, the project executive with Consigli Construction, the company supervising renovations. According to Mike Boucher, site superintendent, Consigli became aware of the graffiti Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. At the time that the graffiti appeared, Boucher offered the 51 workers on the site the opportunity to come forward within one hour. When no one did, the town police were notified. According to Boucher, the site will be closed this afternoon to clean up appropriately. The closure of the site may impact the employment of two of Consigli’s 11 employees, as well as employees of sub-contractors. Although the school believes that this is not a credible threat, they have contracted Cambridge-based [Internal Security Associates, LLC]( (ISA), a private security firm, for both consulting and additional on-site security manpower. According to its website, ISA provides security and investigative services to major international corporations as well as to the U.S. government. Boucher said that the school is also spending money on ISA-recommended additions to the site, such as extra lighting, which was installed Thursday, and security cameras that will be installed by Tuesday. Celia Lewis ’10 spoke with Chase after Thursday’s meeting to inform her that she had seen three young high-school age boys walking inside the fenced construction site during a weekday afternoon. Chase told Lewis that the school may inform the police of her report, though they do not believe it to be connected to this incident. The school became aware of the situation on Wednesday and, at 2:33 p.m. on Thursday, sent out an email, text message, and called all students’ cell phones and room phones to notify the community of a mandatory meeting in Cochran Chapel at 3:45, one hour after classes ended. Sports practices were postponed until after the meeting. The faculty and staff were notified in a separate meeting in the Chapel with Chase, at 3 p.m. on Thursday. Some faculty and staff remained for the meeting with students. Parents were notified later Thursday via email. Chase said that, although she had met resistance about sharing the news this early, she decided to notify the community as a precautionary measure. The language written on the wall was also listed in the town’s police report, which is public record. “Adversity can bring a community together,” Chase said. Although the school is urging parents and students to remain calm, house counselors and day student advisers have been provided with a list of talking points to discuss with their students. CAMD and Graham House counselors were also made available Thursday night to speak with interested students. Mike Discenza, Emma Goldstein and Cora Lewis contributed reporting.