Multiple school campuses locked down

Oct 13, 2016
Photo by: Allison Richmond Parents were lined up in front of Canton Middle School waiting to pick up their children.

Around noon Thursday, a telephone call was made to local law enforcement where the caller made threatening comments about Canton Middle School.

Law enforcement immediately notified Haywood County Schools and a decision was made to evacuate Canton Middle School, and impose a soft lock-down at Pisgah High School, Meadowbrook Elementary School, Bethel Middle School, Bethel Elementary School and North Canton Elementary School.

Canton Middle School students were evacuated to the football field due to the nature of the telephone call, said Associate Superintendent Bill Nolte.

"I don't know the details of the call, but it was threatening to Canton Middle School," Nolte said. "Law enforcement advised us to clear the building."

Principal Todd Barbee, of Canton Middle School, sent a rapid response voice message out shortly informing parents about procedures for checking out and picking up students.

Parents were able to pick their child up early if they wanted, but students otherwise remained at the stadium until the regular bus routes departed, Nolte added.

The other schools in the Canton area were placed on soft lock downs for precautionary purposes, as was recommended by the Canton Police Department. Those schools are expected dismiss using their normal procedures. In a soft lockdown, students continue classes but are not allowed to leave the building.

The evacuations went smoothly with no drama or further incidents, said Haywood County Schools Superintendent Anne Garrett during a press conference outside the Canton Police Department Thursday afternoon.

All after school extracurricular activities will continue as usual, said Nolte, adding he did not believe the threatening call had anything to do with the rivalry games scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

While such calls happen periodically, Nolte said law enforcement officials are generally able to trace the calls so appropriate action can be taken.

This is not the first time school campuses in the county have been evacuated due to threatening messages.

In 2012 a 14-year-old student was charged in juvenile court with making a bomb threat at Tuscola High School. In 2014, a bomb threat at Tuscola led to an evacuation, but no leads were recovered. The Tuscola campus was again evacuated in October 2015, with no arrests made.

In September 2015, a bomb threat was made that led to an evacuation at Pisgah High School.

Phillip Dunn Herndon, who claimed he was having medical issues and had no recollection of making the call, was charged in the incident.

There have been two soft lockdowns at schools in the county in the past two weeks as precautions when law enforcement officers were pursuing suspects in the general area.