Bomb threat prompts high school lockdown

A member of the state patrol’s K9 unit, left, prepares to enter the school with a bomb-sniffing dog. Entering the building along with her are Washington State Patrol Sgt. Bob Wright and Steve Durbin, a staff member at the school.  - Stephen Mercer
A member of the state patrol’s K9 unit, left, prepares to enter the school with a bomb-sniffing dog. Entering the building along with her are Washington State Patrol Sgt. Bob Wright and Steve Durbin, a staff member at the school.
— image credit: Stephen Mercer

All South Whidbey High School students and faculty were evacuated from the high school Monday afternoon following a student’s discovery of a written bomb threat in a girl’s bathroom.

Mike Johnson, SWHS principal, said the student found the bomb threat written on a stall in the girl’s bathroom on the math wing of the lower level of the school.

At about 12:30 p.m., during third period classes, Johnson followed the school’s emergency procedure for bomb threats and pulled the fire alarm. Nearly all students were led to nearby South Whidbey Community Park. About a dozen other students who were near the office when the alarm was pulled waited near the sign at the entrance of the high school.

“We acted with great concern and wanted to ensure the safety of our kids,” Johnson said. “Their safety is paramount.”

The school remained in lockdown until Tuesday morning even though bomb-sniffing dogs from the state patrol’s K9 unit searched the entire school and could not find a bomb. Law enforcement gave an “all clear” at about 4:30 p.m. By that time, however, many students and staff members had already left.

While the dogs where sniffing for bombs, a few students and parents said they did not feel anyone’s safety was threatened.

“No one actually believed there was something in there,” said Oliver Shafaat, a SWHS junior. Jacob Richards, a SWHS junior, said when the students were leaving the school no one panicked.

“I didn’t think it was much at all,” said Janann Cohig-Jones. She said she was at the school to talk to a teacher about her son, Jeffrey Jones, a SWHS sophomore. When the evacuation began, she said she thought it seemed unlikely someone would plant a bomb in the school.

Sharon Knight said she was working with her son Rob, a SWHS sophomore, in the conference room of the library when the alarm sounded. She said she remembers that a school staff member did not seem worried during the evacuation, but told her the students needed to be taken to the park as a precaution.

While the students remained at the park, Langley police, members of the Island County Sheriff’s Office and state patrol officers cut off access into the school and searched the school for bombs. Firefighters from Island County Fire District 3 waited near the school’s entrance to help, as well.

Because of a delayed response by the state patrol’s K9 units, though, law enforcement could not give the “all clear” and allow school to resume, said Brian Miller, community relations officer for the school. He said K9 units were working on caseloads elsewhere when he contacted them.

At about 2:30 p.m., when school normally ends, many of the students were either picked up by their parents or rode home in school buses administrators had rerouted to the park.

Other students either drove off in their vehicles parked off campus or walked home. Students and staff who parked their vehicles on campus, however, were not allowed back to their vehicles until law enforcement provided the all clear. The K9 units arrived at about 2:45 p.m., more than two hours after the school was evacuated.

School returned to the normal schedule Tuesday morning. Miller said students went to their third period classes to collect their belongings and then proceeded to first period classes for roll call.

Principal Johnson said Monday’s bomb threat was the first one he knows of in the six years he has worked at the school.


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