A suspicious package delivered to Community Day School on Aug. 24 — the first day of the 2021-22 academic year — that contained what officials called a “granular, salt-like material that we could not identify,” posed no risk to students or staff, according to the Pittsburgh Police.
Nate Muscato, director of security for CDS, contacted Pittsburgh Police after the Squirrel Hill school’s front office received the package on Tuesday.
Pittsburgh Police responded quickly and determined the package was not dangerous, and the school day continued uninterrupted, school officials said.
Allegheny County 911 and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh were notified about the suspicious package. Hazardous material personnel “did further tests [at] CDS that confirmed the initial police assessment that there was no cause for concern,” officials said.
Community Day School issued two emails to parents of students on Aug. 24 to update them about the police presence at the school.
“The safety of our school community is our very highest priority and a responsibility we hold sacred,” CDS Head of School Avi Baran Munro wrote to parents that day. “As always, we will continue to take all measures necessary to keep our school community physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe.”
“We have no reason to believe the package represented a threat of any kind or targeting of the school,” Jennifer Bails, the school’s director of marketing and communications, told the Chronicle after the incident. “We acted out of an abundance of caution in a wholly precautionary way, guided by the tenet that ‘If you see something, say something.’”
An FBI spokesperson confirmed that agents from the Pittsburgh office responded to the scene in Squirrel Hill on Aug. 24 “and took possession of the package.”
“I don’t have any other information available at this time,” Catherine Policicchio, the office’s public affairs officer said.
The Jewish Federation’s director of community security, Shawn Brokos, declined to speak about specific details regarding the incident, but stressed it does not appear to be part of a larger trend.
“A few Jewish organizations” outside of Pittsburgh reported receiving suspicious packages recently, Brokos told the Chronicle. Those incidents, however, were “not similar to what was seen at Community Day.”
“Had there been a concern or identifiable threat or a suspicion of any, we would have notified the community,” Brokos said. “I know law enforcement responded very quickly and took it very seriously. There was not a time I felt a true risk to the community.”
“CDS handled this matter very well — swiftly and appropriately,” Brokos added. “Now, the investigation is ongoing and it’s in law enforcement’s hands.” PJC
Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.