A 13-year-old seventh-grade boy will face disciplinary action after he admitted to scribbling a note on his desk in a St. Clair Junior High School classroom Thursday morning stating that there were explosives in the building.
School Superintendent Mike Murphy confirmed to The Missourian on Thursday night that a student had admitted to writing the note and that district personnel had conducted preliminary discussions with the teenager and his parents.
The note, written on the front edge of the storage shelf underneath the desktop, caused the evacuation of SCJHS on Thursday morning as a precautionary measure. All 500-plus students were moved to the high school gymnasium located next door until the “all-clear” was given by St. Clair Police about 90 minutes later.
“It was a student within the school setting,” Murphy told The Missourian Thursday before the district’s school board meeting. “He will be disciplined within district policy, and juvenile authorities also are involved.”
The extent of the disciplinary action will be discussed next week, he said.
Murphy would not say much about the boy, including whether he had caused problems at the school in the past. The superintendent also would not say why the student said he wrote the note.
The incident started to unfold shortly before 11 a.m. when a student who sits in the same desk during the next class period saw the note.
“Another student observed it (note) and read it aloud, which startled the teacher,” Murphy said. “The teacher notified the administration, and the appropriate action was taken.”
The note said that there were C-4 explosives inside the building.
St. Clair Police and fire district personnel were called to the scene, and the orderly evacuation process began. At about 11:30 a.m., Murphy sent a phone blast to R-XIII patrons indicating what had happened and what the district was doing. He also emphasized all students were safe.
After police, fire and school district maintenance and custodial staff conducted a thorough room-by-room search of the junior high and found nothing, police issued an “all clear” at about 12:45 p.m. Another phone blast from Murphy indicated that nothing was found, the “all clear” had been issued and the school day would continue under normal conditions.
The superintendent said he talked to personnel from the St. Louis County bomb squad about the incident to help determine the level of the threat. Because of the circumstances surrounding the situation, the decision was made not to evacuate the high school next door or the nearby Edgar Murray Elementary School. It also was decided that it was not necessary to dispatch the bomb squad or a K-9 unit to the scene.
“We evaluated the level of the threat and took what we thought was the appropriate action,” Murphy said. “The evacuation was done as a precaution.”
After sitting in the SCHS gymnasium for close to an hour, the junior high students were fed lunch at the high school before returning to their building to finish the day. Parents who wanted to pick up their children early were allowed to do so.
Junior high Principal Steve Weinhold said 62 or 63 children were picked up early, or slightly more than 10 percent of the 550-member student body.
In all, about 1,200 students were fed lunch at the high school on Thursday.
St. Clair schools were not in session on Friday, nor will they be on Monday. The days off have nothing to do with Thursday’s incident and were a planned part of the academic calendar. Monday is Presidents Day.
The district’s crisis management team, which includes principals and central office staff, supervised the evacuation process and monitored the situation.
“All in all I think we did the best we could with the situation,” Murphy said. “Of course, we will evaluate the process and look for ways to improve it. But, considering the circumstances, I thought it went the best it could go.”