Bomb threat cancels class at high school
A Snapchat message stating there was an “explosive device” at Fredericksburg High School resulted in an evacuation of that campus and a lockdown of other district campuses on Tuesday.
According to a Fredericksburg Police Department press release, an FHS student received the post at approximately 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, and reported it to school officials.
Students and faculty at the high school then were evacuated while the nearby Fredericksburg Primary School was placed on lockdown (as were other FISD campuses).
FPD officers, along with Fredericksburg Fire Department workers and Fredericksburg Independent School District faculty members, searched the school. The San Antonio Police Department was notified to assist with their explosive detecting dogs.
“The investigation into the suspect or suspects is currently under way and is being conducted by the Fredericksburg Police Department,” the police department stated.
FHS seniors were at Mo Ranch for their senior trip at the time of the incident.
“[The police] dogs came in, found nothing, and we cleared,” said Dr. Eric Wright, FISD superintendent. “We’ll monitor the school at night to make sure nobody comes up who’s not supposed to.”
This is the second time in nearly three years that a bomb threat was reported at the school. In 2014, Rueben Byon was arrested for making the false bomb threat at FHS, along with bomb threats at Louisiana schools near Alexandria.
Byon, according to a January 2017 report on Alexandria TV station KALB, pled guilty to the charges of false bomb threats against the Louisiana school.
Evacuating the students
After the threat, Wright said officials went into their “evacuation protocol” and moved the students to an off-campus location.
“We asked students to contact their parents to come and pick them up,” he said.
After the campus was cleared (school resumed on Wednesday), students were allowed to return to pick up vehicles or other items.
The superintendent was not happy that the location where students had been moved (first to FHS Stadium, then transported to the Gillespie County Fair Grounds) had been leaked onto social media. His concern was the person who made the threat would then know where all the students were.
“I am disappointed that information got out,” Wright said. “We had students contact their parents individually.”
“The intent was good, but that’s not now it was supposed to work,” he said. “We don’t want to let out information that would jeopardize students. The perpetrator would then know where they were.”
Overall, Wright felt local law enforcement officers did a good job handling the situation.
“I’m very pleased with how students and staff followed protocol,” he said. “The only problem was releasing information to media that was a bit premature.”
Parents outside the loop
Teachers at FHS have a School Messenger program, which was used to inform them of the threat, along with the school intercom system.
But many area parents expressed displeasure through social media about not being informed initially.
Wright said this was done to take care of the problem at hand more readily and smoothly.
“It depends on the type of crisis at hand,” Wright said. “In situations like this, you don’t want parents involved immediately since we have to manage more people and more chaos. We want students and faculty safe. Once that’s done, we send messages to get parents involved. We deal with students’ and teachers’ safety first.”
Wright said they have the safety of the students first and foremost, and to effectively deal with this type of crisis, he feels it’s necessary to minimize the number of people involved.
The superintendent said he did not contact any other area schools (such as Providence Hall, Ambleside or St. Mary’s), since there was no indication of threats to them.
On the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post Facebook page, some residents voiced their displeasure about the school’s policy of focusing on students and teachers first and then informing parents. (See related story.)
School officials do not have any leads on the suspect or suspects, but Wright said the student who received the message saved a screen shot of the Snapchat message.
“We just have a Snapchat address we’re trying to get as we speak,” Wright said. “Police are investigating leads and will find the perpetrator. We fully intend to prosecute this individual to the fullest extent of the law. We are saddened and angry that an individual such as this has caused anxiety and fear in our community.”
Wright added the district does have a specific policy for how to deal with bomb threats.
“We followed it, and we always debrief after any kind of drill or incident,” he said. “We’ll definitely debrief to see what worked well and what needs to change.”