WHS Evacuates students to football field in February

To narrow down the suspects from a May 6 bomb threat at Washington High School, investigators again reviewed surveillance footage from school hallways.

The threatening note found in a bathroom at WHS was the second in just over two months.

On Tuesday, a 14-year-old girl confessed to writing the note which indicated there was a bomb and warned people not to come to school the following day, said Detective Sgt. Steve Sitzes. The threat was written on a newsletter in a bathroom stall.

This time, there were several students who piqued the interest of detectives.

“There was a group of girls highly interested in the bathroom,” Sitzes said. “They all didn’t want to go to school the next day — there could be other charges as we clean up the investigation.”

Following the investigation, the Franklin County Juvenile Office will make a decision on charges, he said. The girl’s name has not been released.

After the note was located May 6, the school was immediately placed on lockout and the building was searched. Officers also were stationed at the school for activities that evening.

According to Sitzes, a K-9 team of two bomb-sniffing dogs conducted a sweep of the building after school was over that day.

The following morning, police, school administrators and teachers were positioned at all school entries checking backpacks, instrument cases and other bags as students entered the high school.

“The students’ and staffs safety is of utmost concern,” Sitzes said. “We take each threat seriously — in this day and age you don’t know how viable a threat is.

“We ensure the safety of the students, but also try to minimize the amount of interruption it will have on the school day.”

Sitzes noted that students were not dismissed May 6, unlike the Feb. 27 incident.

“It is a case-by-case basis,” he said. “In this case we did not dismiss students. We evaluate and see what fits best.”

Washington police thanked the Washington School District for its assistance in the investigation. School officials and police worked closely after the note was found.

“We take threats very seriously and follow our procedures and protocols to ensure that all students are safe,” said Principal Dr. Kelle McCallum. “We appreciate the parents’ and students’ understanding and cooperation as we address any concerns.”

February Threat

The May 6 threat was similar to the February incident that led to charges of making a terrorist threat against a 16-year-old Washington girl. Her name was not released.

The threats were located in different bathrooms, police said.

After the February incident, the building was evacuated and students were moved to the football field. Once the school was cleared, a St. Louis Airport Police K-9 team of three bomb-sniffing dogs searched the school.

The previous threat prompted the evacuation of about 1,350 students and 100 staff members. There was no bomb located and no injuries during that search and evacuation.

Police said the bathroom where the message was written in February is not in a high-traffic area of the school. That helped with the investigation.

In both cases, detectives and district staff systematically reviewed footage from the school hallway camera outside the bathrooms and narrowed down the time frame of when the message was written.

In February, investigators and WHS staff members watched video narrowing the pool of suspects to two students. One of those confessed to her mother that she wrote the message. Her mother then contacted school administrators.

After that, police and juvenile authorities interviewed the girl.

Restitution

Police will again seek restitution for the bomb threat at WHS.

Sitzes said he will contact the St. Louis County Police Department to determine the cost of sending bomb-sniffing dogs and officers to the school.

He added there was not any additional costs for the Washington Police Department because only officers who were on duty responded to the scene. There also were Franklin County deputies at the school.

The expenses accrued during the search, including the use of the K-9 units, will be passed on to whomever is charged, Sitzes said.

According to state statutes, there is a maximum of $4,000 in restitution that a juvenile, or their parents or guardians, can be forced to pay.

The May threat was minimal in regard to manpower and school district expenses compared to the February threat.

In that case, there were 12 Washington detectives and patrol officers, deputies, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and St. Louis Airport Police K-9 team comprised of three dogs.

There also may be other expenses accrued in the February incident, such as school lunches that were thrown out because the threat was found at lunchtime and about 1,350 students and 100 staff members were evacuated.