ALBION, New York — Last Friday, on the day three Albion students allegedly planned to carry out a lethal attack on their middle school, nearly half of the district's student body stayed home from school.
And four days later, in Orleans County Family Court on Tuesday, two of the three boys charged in connection to that threat entered guilty pleas, said Orleans County District Attorney Joe Cardone. Albion is about 35 miles west of Rochester.
The boys, who are minors and are not being identified by the Democrat and Chronicle, pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy, a felony. One also pleaded guilty to an additional charge of aggravated harassment, a misdemeanor.
The third was not present in court on Tuesday, Cardone said.
Tuesday's court appearance was only supposed to be a discussion about whether the court could move forward with a trial planned for Wednesday. Cardone said the two pleas came as a surprise.
"I think, frankly, that the young men and their families wanted to take responsibility for what had occurred," he said.
He declined to discuss in detail what the two boys said in court about the plan to attack the middle school.
"Both made admissions. They admitted the elements that were necessary to establish the conspiracy," Cardone said. "I don't want to misstate things."
On Friday, the day the three boys allegedly planned to carry out the lethal attack, nearly half of the district's student population stayed home from school, according to the district.
53% of middle school students were absent
45% of elementary school students (pre-K through fifth grade) were absent
44% of high school students were absent
Superintendent Michael Bonnewell said that despite efforts to let students and their families know they would be safe at school, he had a feeling it wouldn't make much of a difference.
"Once the Facebook posts started up again on Thursday, I knew that we would have a crummy attendance on Friday," he said.
The Albion Police Department had an increased presence on the school campus on Friday and sent out a press release last Thursday to quell community concerns.
"The Albion Police Department is in constant communication with the School District and the Probation Department, who is tasked with monitoring the defendants who were arrested in November for the previous threat," Albion Police Chief Roland Nenni said in the release.
"Even though we have no credible information supporting a threat, we understand the community's concern and heightened sense of awareness."
It's not yet clear when or if the boys will return to school.
A pre-dispositional hearing, the Family Court version of a sentencing hearing, Cardone explained, will determine in February next steps for the boys' punishment.
All options are on the table — from conditional discharge to detention — and it will be up to Judge Sanford Church to find the best solution, Cardone said.
The case of the third student has yet to be determined.
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