A parent of two students at Washington High School voiced her concerns at Tuesday’s school board meeting about how officials handled the evacuation of students following a bomb threat last month.
Beverly Brautigam said had the threat been real, or a ruse to get students out of the building, the teens would have been “sitting ducks” on the field.
“It’s been done before,” she said, referring to other school shootings in the country.
A threatening message written on a bathroom stall prompted the evacuation of WHS shortly after noon Wednesday, Feb. 27. School officials said the message pertained to “blowing up the school.”
Washington police and other law officers quickly responded to the scene. Students were moved to the football field while the search was conducted. Three trained dogs also were brought in to sweep through and assess all parts of the school.
The school eventually was given the all clear by police after nothing was found, but students did not return to their classrooms that day.
Brautigam suggested that students should be evacuated to different areas of the campus and not in one location and a check-in procedure established to account for students.
She also noted the high school only has one resource officer at the campus and does not allow for voluntarily armed and trained staff to carry guns.
Detective Sgt. Steve Sitzes told The Missourian in a story that ran in the March 2-3 issue that the football field and surrounding area was checked, secured and safe before the students were evacuated there.
“We swept the area and had security around the football field,” Sitzes said. “We made sure they were in a safe area.”
There was no bomb located and no injuries during the search and evacuation.
A WHS student has been arrested in the case, which has been referred to the Franklin County Juvenile Office.
The school board does not respond during the public comments portion of the meeting.
Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer told The Missourian Wednesday that the district does not generally publicize its emergency procedures.
“We have different options for any given situation,” she said, “but we’re not going to announce that because it would be counterproductive.”
VanLeer said school officials always follow the lead of law enforcement.
“In this particular case, the police did sweep and assess the football field and surrounding area before we put students there,” she said, adding law enforcement also set up a perimeter around the football field as well.
“We appreciate all of the help of law enforcement and we had a lot of them on campus during that incident,” she said. “Next time our response could be very different. Internally, there is always a lot of decision-making going on that is not made public.”
VanLeer said she appreciates Brautigam’s comments and concerns and the board is always open to hearing from the public.