- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Montgomery County [Md.] Police Chief Charles A. Moose read a postscript yesterday from a note found by investigators near the scene of a sniper shooting in Ashland, Va., three days earlier: "Your children are not safe anywhere at any time."
It was not clear yesterday whether law-enforcement authorities in Montgomery or other counties in which schools were kept open had told school officials of the threat in the note.
Despite the threat, area schools remained open yesterday and are scheduled to be open today, although outdoor activities in most regional jurisdictions have been canceled.
"Please understand that this exact language has previously been shared with leadership of law enforcement, community leadership [and] people that needed to make decisions," Chief Moose said.
In Montgomery County, where the sniper struck again for the first time since Oct. 3 by killing a bus driver, school officials scrambled last night to devise plans for today. Schools will open on time but will remain on a Code Blue security alert.
Prince George's County schools spokeswoman Athena Ware said that she was not aware of any efforts by police to inform school officials about the note. A 13-year-old boy was shot and critically wounded by the sniper outside Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie on Oct. 7.
Miss Ware said that officials have been monitoring the developments and a meeting was held last night to determine the best course of action. She said that Prince George's County schools would be open today under Code Blue restrictions.
In Arlington County and in Alexandria, school officials said that they had consulted police before Chief Moose's announcement yesterday and were not advised to shut down schools.
Adrian Carver, spokeswoman for Arlington County public schools, said that police did not advise administrators to change their policy on the sniper attacks. The policy, before the discovery of the note, was to suspend all field trips and outdoor activities, such as recesses, physical education classes and athletic practices.
Fairfax County school officials said in a statement that they are working closely with police and that schools would remain open, but with restrictions on activities.
D.C. schools will operate on schedule today, but there will be no bus transportation. All outdoor activities and field trips are canceled until further notice. All after-school activities, including interscholastic sports, also are canceled.
Many law-enforcement authorities in Virginia responded to the initial information as if it were an alert and advised school officials in five counties and the city of Richmond to close schools on Monday and yesterday.
About 150,000 students from schools in Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico and Powhatan counties and Richmond stayed home, and several jurisdictions said that the closures today were based at least in part on advice from law-enforcement officials.
Frank E. Morgan, superintendent of Goochland County schools, said that he had not been informed of the exact nature of the threat but had acted on the advice of the county sheriff's department to shut down the schools.
"We've been making our decisions about whether or not to close schools based on the recommendations of the sheriff's department," Mr. Morgan said yesterday before Chief Moose had addressed reporters with the specific wording of the note.
"The sheriff's department indicated to me that based on their understanding of what was going on, their recommendation would be [to close schools]," Mr. Morgan said.
Several PTA officials contacted yesterday declined to comment on whether Chief Moose should have released the statement earlier, and one indicated that he was afraid that any comments he made might incite the sniper.
Denise Barnes contributed to this report.

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