Bomb threat leads to school evacuation

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, December 5, 2012

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A threatening note found in a bathroom at Decatur High School led to a nearly four-hour evacuation Tuesday.

Superintendent Rod Townsend said four students found a note written on notebook paper in the third-floor boys’ bathroom and brought it to the office around 10:15 a.m. The note indicated there was a bomb at the school and mentioned “11, 12, 1 and 2” as possible detonation times.

The building was evacuated immediately as students and school employees were relocated to the practice field behind the school. The Decatur Fire and Police departments responded to investigate.

Townsend said three different sweeps of the building were made due to the different times listed in the threat. Nothing suspicious was found.

Students returned to class at 2:15 p.m., and school dismissed at normal time.

In the meantime, students and staff spent a few hours outside waiting for the “all clear” to return inside. After several days of unseasonably warm weather, it appeared some students hadn’t prepared for the cold front that had blown through earlier Tuesday morning. Several were even wearing shorts as a cool north wind steadily blew.

Many students began calling their parents to pick them up or to bring them a jacket. Parents who picked up their children were told that school had not been dismissed for the day, and if their child did not return to school once classes resumed, they would be marked absent.

Substitute teacher Mary Jolley called her mother, Ann, to bring several jackets and blankets to the school to help protect against the stiff breeze.

Townsend said the field house and ag building were also searched and cleared of any threats in case those buildings were needed to shelter students from the elements.

About 30 students who were retaking a portion of the STAAR test had to relocate to nearby Carson Elementary in order to finish. At 12:45, students who were eligible for off-campus lunch were allowed to leave, and the rest of the students ate in the cafeteria of the elementary school. Several high school cafeteria workers and janitors went to the elementary school to help out.

The district posted news of the bomb threat on its website and Facebook page and included updates throughout the day. Updates were also posted on the Messenger’s Facebook page.

Townsend explained why parents were not personally called.

“I never felt there was a life-threatening situation,” he said. “If we notified every parent, it would have been total chaos.”

While many parents expressed frustration with the school district, judging by some of the comments on the Messenger’s Facebook page, others tried to help out the school. Townsend said several parents brought pizza or tacos to help feed the kids.

Police investigators have the note and will try to determine who made the threat. The school district is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible. If you have information, call the Decatur Police Department at (940) 627-1500.

Townsend complimented the work of the high school staff for the quick evacuation and help in feeding students at the elementary school. He also thanked the police and fire departments for their work in making sure the building was safe for students.

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