School Security Concerns Lead to East Haven Father's Arrest

An East Haven father who posted pictures of the doors wide open at his daughter's middle school is now in trouble with police.

Investigators charged Angelo Appi with breach of peace, not for what he did at Joseph Melillo Middle School, but for comments he made on Facebook, according to police.

Appi first made headlines nearly two weeks ago when he marched into his daughter's middle school unannounced and started recording.

"I went to pick up my daughter today and wanted to prove a point that our School children are vulnerable," Appi wrote on his Facebook page. "I parked in the Fire Lane directly in front of the school so I can be seen. I hid my cell phone in my empty coffee cup and proceeded to the front door. Which was Wide open with no staff around."

The post goes on to describe Appi's entry into the school building. He wrote that there were no security guards or cameras around to notice him, and said no administrators left the office to confront him after he walked in.

"No one is paying attention," Appi wrote. "The children in our schools are at risk. I can walk into any school in CT. Cameras and buzzers do nothing to protect our children. Especially doors that are wide open. I could of [sic] easily abducted a child."

Another post, according to police, said, "Maybe I have to walk in with Toy guns just to prove a point!"

The principal told police that he was concerned about the posts and had received at least 50 calls in one day from concerned parents.

But some parents think Appi went too far, saw him as a threat to their children and many students were kept r kids out of school as a result.

On an average day, about 20 students call out sick, according to the principal. On Oct. 21, 40 students called out sick and school officials had to explain to parents that there children were safe.

Appi said he wanted to raise concerns about an apparent lack of security at the school.

"I'm sorry if somebody got offended by that, but I would never cause any harm to the children," Appi said.

On Tuesday he was arrested after turning himself in to East Haven police and walked out a free man after his father, Angelo Appi, Sr., posted bond.

Appi stands by his actions and said he doesn't believe the blame should come down on him.

"I don't think there was anything aggressive or anything like that," Appi said. "The only comment I made was be happy I came in there with a cell phone trying to expose the security flaws."

His cell phone video started all the rage.

Appi said he saw the open door and started recording to prove a point. He said he wanted to show how easy it was to get inside the building.

The school superintendent said the door had been propped open by the volleyball team while they were moving equipment.

"And I walked in the school and nobody asked me what I was doing there, how I got into the school and who you are," said Appi.

East Haven police issued a news release about the arrest on Wednesday.

"While Mr. Appi stated that he believes it is his First Amendment right to free speech to comment, the right to free speech is not absolute as indicated by U.S. Supreme Court rulings," police said in a news release. "The comment made by Mr. Appi is not protected speech and is akin to yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater or 'bomb' in an airport when no such threat exists."

Appi's father is also standing up for his son.

"So somehow they're turning this around and putting it on him for their lack of security. He's a very passionate person," said Angelo Appi, Sr.

"We do have our first amendment rights," Appi said. "I could see if I was threatening anybody or made any actual threats but I didn't make no threats. I'm just making legitimate comments."

The East Haven school superintendent did not return a request for comment Tuesday night.

"There could've been somebody else that went into the school besides me and we don't want to relive that again," said Appi.

Appi said this is not the end of his activism and that he wants to continue to push the issue of school security.

He's due in court Oct. 30.

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