A threatening message written on a bathroom stall prompted the evacuation of Washington High School Wednesday afternoon.
School officials said the message pertained to “blowing up the school.”
The school eventually was given the all clear by police after nothing was found, but students did not return to their classrooms Wednesday. The school also was closed Thursday due to icy road conditions.
Washington police and other law enforcement responded to the high school shortly after noon when the threat was reported. The building was evacuated and students were moved to the football field.
A call blast to parents followed shortly after, school officials said.
There was no threat made to Washington Middle School, located nearby.
Three trained dogs were brought in to sweep through and assess all parts of the high school.
Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said she appreciated the cooperation shown by all students and staff who worked closely to follow district safety protocols.
“Although this message was vague, we take these situations seriously,” VanLeer said.
After consulting with law enforcement, the decision was made to cancel school for the remainder of the day, as well as after-school activities.
Students who had their own transportation could leave at about 12:45 p.m. and others were relocated to the middle school to wait for pickup or to ride the bus at their normal Wednesday early release time.
VanLeer said these types of situations create a major disruption to the school environment and community.
“We apologize for the inconvenience, however, we must exercise our due diligence,” she said. “We have the best interest of our students in mind when we execute procedures quickly as it relates to situations such as this.”
Another call blast was sent to parents at about 4 p.m. Wednesday thanking parents for their patience as schools officials worked with law enforcement to assess the buildings.
If students needed to retrieve their personal belongings, such as their keys, the high school building was open until about 5 p.m. Wednesday for them to do so. Students were escorted to their belongings.
Washington High School Principal Dr. Kelle McCallum told The Missourian that the safety of students and staff is the district’s highest priority.
“We have processes in place to help guide our decisions in these concerning situations,” she said. “I would like to recognize and commend our students and staff for remaining calm and responding in a way that kept everyone safe.
“Our parents are fantastic and helped in this event by their response to the situation,” she added. “We will review the event and make any necessary adjustments to further the safety of our campus.”
McCallum said she’s thankful for the district’s leadership team for its diligence and guidance.
“We really are stronger together,” she said. “It takes all of us and today (Wednesday) everyone responded in a caring and appropriate way.”