Student charged in THS bomb threat incident
Authorities have charged a 14-year-old boy who they believe threatened to bomb Tuscola High School Monday, leading to a two-hour delay.
Haywood County Sheriff Bobby Suttles said school officials discovered a voice message at 7:30 a.m. that said "Hello. I'm going to come bomb the school Monday."
School officials immediately implemented a crisis management plan updated before classes started in August, which included notifying law enforcement authorities and immediately sealing off the campus, said Bill Nolte, the associate superintendent for Haywood County Schools.
Nolte estimated only about 300 students had already arrived on campus by the time the threat was discovered and action was taken to reroute school traffic. The students on campus were immediately evacuated to the perimeter of the school property while the school was searched from room to room. Teachers volunteered to enter their classrooms to identify if anything was out of place, Nolte said.
Students with disabilities were bussed to the waiting area, and later to a nearby parking lot at the the former Walmart.
"Students were held in the waiting area because it was deemed safer than conducting a large scale move to another location," Nolte said. "Vehicles that had not yet entered campus were directed to the old Walmart parking area to wait. The school also sent a voice message to notify parents."
Once law enforcement officials arrived on campus, they were in charge of the scene, Nolte said.
Suttles said it took several hours to thoroughly search the school with the help of Waynesville Police Department's bomb dog.
Detectives were able to quickly trace phone records leading them to the accused freshman around 2:30 p.m.
Det. Bruce Warren said the boy will be charged by juvenile petition for making a false bomb report in a public building, which is a felony.
Warren said the most recent bomb threat case he worked was a series of seven threats at Haywood Community College in September, 2001, but no one was ever charged.
Since then, though, he said improved technology has made it much easier to find and charge people who make false threats.
Nolte said it’s important for students to know that bomb threats are not tolerated.
“While there was not an actual bomb, this was still a very serious, disruptive and costly event. We do not take situations like this lightly and will use the full weight of public school law and school board policy to discourage future events,” he said.
State law prevents school officials from sharing information that may be included in student discipline records. Therefore, specific discipline cannot be released by the school or school system, he said.