WHS Evacuates students to football field

The Franklin County Juvenile Office will determine if a 16-year-old Washington girl who admitted to writing a bomb threat on a school bathroom stall will be tried as an adult.

According to Washington police, the girl was charged Tuesday, March 5, with making a bomb threat at Washington High School Wednesday, Feb. 27.

Detective Sgt. Steve Sitzes said the teen has been charged with making a terrorist threat for allegedly scrawling a message on a bathroom stall.

School officials said the message pertained to “blowing up the school.”

There was no bomb located and no injuries during the search and evacuation.

The girl’s name has not been released.

According to Washington School District Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer the girl is not attending classes in the district. She added the district is following its policy and disciplinary code of conduct. Any further 

discipline is pending.

Narrow Down 

According to Sitzes, the bathroom where the message was written was not in a high-traffic area of the school. That helped with the investigation.

“There were only about 50 or 60 people in the whole school who used that bathroom,” he said.

Detectives systematically reviewed footage from the school hallway camera outside the bathroom and narrowed down the time frame of when the message was written.

“We started with when we knew the janitor was in there last,” Sitzes added. “From there we narrowed it down to three or four students.”

Investigators and WHS staff members watched video.

“The staff did most of the talking (interviewing) with students,” he said.

Sitzes explained that the pool of suspects was narrowed down to two. 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.

According to Sitzes, there has not been a crime like this committed in Washington that has not been solved.

“With the number of cameras in schools it doesn’t take much time to narrow down the window of opportunity,” he said. “And students tell other students — it is rare that these cases are not solved.” 

Restitution 

Following the threat, police stated they would seek restitution for the manpower and resources utilized to investigate the threat.

If the girl is charged as a minor, there can only be a maximum of $4,000 in restitution ordered by the courts, Sitzes noted.

Washington police and other law enforcement officers responded to the high school shortly after noon Feb. 27 when the threat was reported. The building was evacuated and students were moved to the football field.

After the school was cleared, a St. Louis Airport Police K-9 team of three bomb-sniffing dogs searched the school.

Sitzes said it took the three dogs more than 1 1/2 hours to search the 265,000-square-foot facility, as well as outside the building.

He added that if only one search animal were available it would have taken much longer because K-9 units can only be active for so long before rest is required for the dogs.

Responding to the scene were Franklin County deputies, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents. Sitzes said the agents were at the Washington police station for an unrelated case and responded to the scene to assist if their services were needed.

Police were on the scene until about 5 p.m.

In addition to the cost for law enforcement officers to respond, the school also will incur costs due to the threat.