‘The school was on edge that day’

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Rosie Mullaley
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Teenager who sent threatening text message to Mount Pearl student gets jail time

He said it was just a joke, but when Rodney Squibb told a student he was inside her school with a gun, no one was laughing for long.

Rodney Squibb was given a two-month jail term, with a year’s probation, Tuesday at provincial court in St. John’s.

The message was relayed via phone text to his ex-girlfriend, a student at O’Donel High School in Mount Pearl, who in turn told school administrators.

“I was in a position of having to deal with one of the most frightening situations that any school principal can face,” Michelle Clemens wrote in her victim impact statement for Squibb’s sentencing hearing Tuesday at provincial court in St. John’s.

Squibb was given a two-month jail term, with one year’s probation. He was credited 51 days for the time he’s spent in custody, meaning he’ll be free in nine days.

The 19-year-old pleaded guilty to a number of charges, including mischief by interfering with property and several counts of breaching court orders.

Squibb was arrested May 8, 2013, about an hour after he sent the text message.

“In your school with a gun,” he wrote in the message at around 10:50 a.m. that day.

The female student initially didn’t take the message seriously.

“Ha ha!” she replied.

“Fun times,” she wrote back in a second reply, before writing, “Why would you say that?”

The girl informed a school guidance counsellor and administrators, who immediately called police.

Clemens and staff opted to lock the school as a precautionary measure and had teachers watching all entrances and exits. Teachers were told to lock their classroom doors.

RNC officers searched the school for Squibb, but could not find him. Students told teachers they had seen Squibb in the tunnels near the school earlier that day.

Clemens then alerted three neighbouring schools — St. Peter’s Elementary, Mount Pearl Intermediate and Mount Pearl Senior High — which also locked their doors as a precautionary measure. Cle­mens had suggested the schools keep their students inside during the lunch hour.

The secure schools protocol remained in place for about 40 minutes, after which normal classroom activities resumed.

That’s after police spotted Squibb with another male on O’Donel’s parking lot. They had sent him a text message stating they were looking for him. He was taken into custody.

Squibb told officers he was joking when he sent the text message and that he didn’t intend to bring a gun into the school.

Defence lawyer Candace Summers told the court Tuesday that Squibb had an older flip phone, which inadvertently turned off when he put it in his pocket. As a result, he didn’t receive the girl’s reply.

“If he had, this incident would not have happened,” Summers said, adding Squibb and the girl had been on good terms.

“It was just a very stupid mistake he made.”

But the incident caused panic in the school community.

“Thoughts of Columbine and the Montreal massacre of women came to mind,” Clemens said in her written statement. “I felt I had a young woman’s life to protect and very possibly many others.”

She said having to take security measures and having police in the school alarmed students.

“I felt the anxiety in the building was increasing rapidly,” she wrote. “Students saw the police cars, heard and saw officers with weapons drawn.

“I was worried about the effects on everyone. Mental battles about whether I was making all the correct decisions. …

“That morning, I dealt with students, teachers, police, district staff, media and government. This was all very stressful.”

Clemens said she lost sleep over the incident, worrying about the mental health of the students and staff.

“The school was on edge that day,” she said.

“The impact of this event was felt by myself and many others for days.”

The sentence was an agreed recommendation from Summers and Crown prosecutor Phyllis Harris.

Harris pointed out that Squibb, who lives at a shelter, has no prior criminal record, but “caused quite a fuss” at the school.

“His actions did have an impact on people,” she said.

Judge David Orr agreed.

“You can imagine the situation the school principal found herself in,” Orr said.

He said while Squibb considered it a prank, he should have expected a concerned reaction, as no one had any way of knowing he hadn’t intended to do anything criminal.

“It was a thoughtless action of someone who didn’t foresee the effect it would have,” Orr said. “But when threats are made, deterrence has to be the principle factor in sentencing.”

As part of the sentence, Squibb was ordered to have no contact with the girl to whom he sent the text message and to stay away from the school.

 

rmullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelyCourt

Organizations: O’Donel High School

Geographic location: Mount Pearl, Columbine, Montreal

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