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WHS implements changes after bomb threats

By: Destiny Lam

The fire alarm went off, so everyone headed to the nearest exit, just like they’d practiced. It was odd to have a fire drill during 3rd lunch, but students exited the building quickly.  However, when students and staff were filed into the soccer field on October 17, it was apparent that a there was bigger problem- a bomb threat written on the walls of a girls’ bathroom. While attitudes towards the conflict varied, students and staff agreed that improvements could be made to the procedures.

For the most part, teachers of WHS maintained a positive outlook towards the situation. “I think it went remarkably well,” said Mrs.Coyner, a history teacher, “particularly since we haven’t had to do it in years and years and years. No one really knew what they were doing.”

Mr. Hennel, WHS outdoor ed. and CTE teacher, agreed that considering the amount of practice they had, the evacuation went fairly well. “They did okay,” said Hennel. “I’ve been here for 15 years and it’s really the first one I remember.” Both teachers agreed that they felt that their students hadn’t been affected drastically and Coyner noted that the bomb threat produced more drama than fear.

Some students were not amused by the event. “Honestly it was sort of disorganized,” said Tess Bryan, a WHS sophomore.“They definitely shouldn’t have pulled the fire alarm.”

 From an administrator’s perspective, the high school evacuation went fairly well considering how unfamiliar everyone was with the circumstance. Mr.Stamm, WHS assistant principal, said that everyone left the building quickly and everyone made it to the soccer field safely. “There are some things we’ll probably do different in the future once we get up there, but I’m really happy with how quick everyone reacted,” said Stamm.

Despite the varying opinions of how the situation went, students and staff agreed that improvements needed to be made. “What we did followed the plan,” said Coyner. “Now we need to work on the plan to correct some of the problems we had.”

According to Hennel, communication of the situation to everyone needed to be addressed. WHS principal, Mr. Teachey, said that the evacuation could have been more organized and that the fire alarm did not need to be pulled. “Bomb threats come in a lot of different forms,” said Teachey. He emphasised that pulling the fire alarm is the best option for specific places or times. If the threat isn’t specific, the fire alarm shouldn’t be pulled and everyone should exit the building as orderly as possible.

Since the evacuation of October 17th, WHS has had a second bomb threat. Students were evacuated once again on November 4. Instead of pulling the fire alarm, staff went to each classroom with instructions. Students were evacuated out of the building and up to the soccer field where teachers were holding up papers and clipboards with bus numbers on them. Students that usually rode the bus were told to find their bus number and wait for it to arrive. Those that usually got a ride home or walked were told to stay with their 4th block teacher.

Students and staff agreed that the second evacuation went better than the first. “The second time was definitely more organized than the first,” said Bryan. Hennel’s problem was addressed as a megaphone was used to better the communication from staff to students. However, Teachey said that while the second threat was more organized, it needed to be performed quicker. He explained that the main goal was to evacuate quickly and orderly, keeping all students accounted for. Dr. Barber, Waynesboro Public Schools Director of Student Services, said that safety was the most important. “Our priority in any type of situation is to keep students and staff safe,” said Barber.

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“Our priority in any type of situation is to keep students and staff safe,” said Dr. Barber, Waynesboro Public Schools Director of Student Services. Photo By: Lilli Wilfong

Barber said that he was content with how the administrators reacted and that if another bomb threat were to happen, he believes that they’re fairly prepared. “There’s a lot of kind of different pieces to the puzzle,” said Barber, “and I think our team, the administrative team, has done a good job working together.”

Some students haven’t recognized that bomb threats are a serious offence. Sarah Jackson, a freshman, said, “They’re just taking it as a joke.” She felt that the threats were being used to get out of class and weren’t taken seriously. Stamm agreed that everyone needs to be made aware of just how serious bomb threats are. “It affects the school day and the school environment, but it also affects the safety and mindset of the students in the building and the community,” said Stamm. Not to mention that the consequences for threatening the school has major consequences. “It’s a dumb idea,” said Bryan, “If you do something like that you get an actual legal penalty.” According to News Virginian, those that are at the age of 15 or older could be charged with a Class 5 felony. Barber said that a student making this threat could be suspended long term or expelled from school as well. “We don’t believe that as a school division, that any of those consequences for that type of behavior is good for anybody,” said Barber.

While the evacuation plan has progressed, there may be some room for further improvements such as more drills to be implemented. However, threatening the school with something like a bomb threat not only disrupts the mindset of the community, but also decreases the amount of time that students have in order to learn. Moreover, making a bomb threat to the school results in serious consequences that could carry on throughout a person’s life, possibly resulting in the loss of opportunities that would have otherwise been available to them such as plans to graduate or maintaining a successful career.

One Response to “WHS implements changes after bomb threats”

  1. Alissa Freemantle says:

    Great article!

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