HAMBLETON - Tucker County High School was evacuated due to a bomb threat Monday, the second in two days at the school.
Students and staff were evacuated at approximately 10:30 a.m. Monday, and put on buses until 3 p.m., when the school was declared clear by law enforcement. Students and staff then re-entered the school to gather their belongings before going home, officials said.
On Friday, students and staff were evacuated about noon, then sent home at 1 p.m. because of the threat.
"We are investigating leads and think they are solid as to who the perpetrator was in Friday's threat," Tucker County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Eddie Campbell said. "If we find the responsible party, we will follow through with the appropriate consequences."
Campbell said Friday's threat was in the form of a stored message on a graphing calculator. He said Monday's message was a handwritten threat on a piece of paper.
TCHS Principal Jay Hamric said Monday's threat was found on top of a toilet.
"On Friday, we had a very light attendance at Tucker County High School because many students and teachers had left to attend the state football playoffs in Weirton," Campbell said. "The students were dismissed about 1 p.m. because the West Virginia State Police could not complete a sweep of the building before students would have to leave for the day.
"Also, the police were waiting for the bomb dogs to arrive from Charleston.
"Another reason we sent the students home was because they had not had the opportunity to eat lunch by the time they were evacuated."
Campbell said students are not normally dismissed when evacuated; however, there was no way to get the students fed on Friday, and the all-clear signal from law enforcement would come following the students' regular dismiss time.
"The dogs did not find anything suspicious in the school on Friday," Campbell said. "On Monday, we received word at 3 p.m. from the State Police that everything was clear. Students were heading back to pick up their things before heading home."
Following Monday's Tucker County Board of Education meeting, Campbell said the incidents are an unfortunate occurrence.
"Tucker has not had a bomb threat in many years," Campbell said. "We want this to be the exception. That is why we have taken the steps we have taken. And, as I said before, we are going to treat this very seriously and should we be able to determine the perpetrators, we are going to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law."
Campbell said there is a county wide policy that deals with all types of emergencies.
"We go through a process every year - we train our secretaries just how to handle bomb threats that are called in," Campbell said. "These were not phoned-in bomb threats, but probably half you receive are usually phoned in. We have trained our secretaries how to receive those and we have trained our teachers on what all the codes mean. We practice."
Campbell said he went to Tucker County High School Friday after receiving word of the threat.
"I went up to help the school administration in handling things and our kids and teachers did a wonderful job," Campbell said. "They heard the code and they knew exactly what to do and exactly where to go. They were cooperative and the students got on the buses. The teachers helped supervise and everything was just coordinated.
"I could not have been more pleased with the coordination Friday or today. I think this is just a testament to the work and preparation we do ahead of these things whether it be a fire, a traffic accident or a shooter. I feel really confident that our people are prepared and ready to go."
Campbell said officials go back and review these incidents to see what could have been done differently and what changes are needed.
"The amount of time it took us to move 300 kids to safety was incredible," Campbell said. "It is a testament to the staff and the kids and what they do up there."
Campbell said the threats have to stop.
"We know the State Police and the prosecuting attorney are going to treat this very seriously," Campbell said. "Kids think it's funny- they think it's a joke. But a young man or woman just committed a felony and it's going to be treated that way. We need to make sure that kids understand this cannot go on. The tens of thousands of dollars being spent dealing with these two incidents - kids just have no idea. They think they just go and sit on a bus and they don't know how much these things cost. From paying bus drivers to the fees for the bomb dogs - the taxpayer money involved is tremendous."
Campbell said many agencies went into action following the threat.
"We had EMS staging in Parsons and Thomas and fire departments staged until we had the all clear from the State Police that we could get back into the high school," Campbell said. "They had to be there and be prepared to come to the high school should they be needed. That was hours people had to take time out of whatever it was they were doing. But these should be there for real things, not a joke a kid thought was funny."
Contact Beth Christian Broschart at 304-636-2124 ext. 114 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at IMT_Broschart.