2014-03-29 / News

Threat leads to evacuation

By Scott Rawdon

MILLERSPORT – High School/Middle School staff and students saw the writing on the wall, and evacuated the building immediately Tuesday morning.

Walnut Township Schools Superintendent Randy Cotner said a student noticed a note scribbled on the boys’ bathroom wall implying a bomb threat. The student reported it to the principal immediately, who contacted the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office and called for immediate building evacuation. Cotner said the evacuation, which was called at approximately 10:15 a.m., only took about a minute and a half to clear students and staff out of the entire building.

“Kudos to our students,” said Cotner, adding that he was proud of the student who saw the message and reported it immediately. “The staff and students did great,” he said.

Cotner said students and staff regularly hold evacuation drills and Tuesday the real thing went perfectly. He said sheriff’s deputies were on the scene very quickly, as were bomb-sniffing dogs. “We’re very pleased with the quick response of the sheriff’s office. And, we were fortunate three canine units were available,” he said, adding that units arrived from all over Central Ohio. Cotner said the dogs searched every inch of the school and law enforcement determined the building was safe.

“Thank goodness (the threat) was not real,” said Cotner. Students returned to the building at roughly 1:15 p.m. He said the district’s mass calling technology notified parents when the incident took place and when the building was determined to be safe.

Fairfield County Sheriff Dave Phalen said he doesn’t believe Millersport students were ever in any real danger. “It doesn’t appear so,” he said. Phalen said the note on the bathroom wall said something similar to, “The school’s going to go ‘boom’ in 60 minutes-goodbye.” He said law enforcement is reviewing video recordings of the school and Phalen said Wednesday he believes there is a suspect.

Phalen said he’s been in law enforcement for many years and has yet to see a bomb threat similar to Tuesday’s that was real. However, he said that doesn’t mean the sheriff’s department has or will ever take such threats lightly. “The first time it’s not taken seriously,” said Phalen, may be the first time a bomb exists.

For whoever wrote the note on the bathroom wall, Cotner said the school disciplinary procedures would be the “least of his (or her) worries. This is one to be handled by law enforcement.” The case remains under investigation, which may take some time because it involves juveniles. “We’re dealing with minors, which changes the rules,” he said.

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