Bomb threats at three Ellicott City schools delayed classes for about 2,500 students yesterday morning. Police dogs sniffed the abandoned buildings for explosives, but none was found, Howard County police said.
School officials say the threats at Centennial High School, Centennial Lane Elementary School and Burleigh Manor Middle School come about two weeks after a morning newspaper deliverer found a threatening note attached to a door at the high school. No arrests were made in that case, police said.
"We take these incidents quite seriously," said Patti Caplan, information officer for county schools. "The last one we received was kind of hostile."
Fire and police workers responded to yesterday's threats after school employees arriving for work found scribbled notes on the doors of the schools at 6 a.m. The notes said bombs would explode at the schools at 8 a.m. or on school buses en route to the schools, police said.
The high school students, who typically start their school day at 7 a.m., were taken to shelters at Centennial Park. The middle school students, who begin classes at 8 a.m., were taken to the Howard County School of Technology. The elementary students, who usually start 8:35 a.m., were driven to Mount Hebron High School, Ms. Caplan said.
The students waited while as many as 30 police officers divided themselves into groups with bomb-sniffing dogs and searched the exterior of the schools. After 8 a.m., the officers searched inside the schools for hours, but found nothing, police said.
High school and middle school students resumed classes at 10 a.m., and elementary pupils returned to classes at 11 a.m.
Police say that yesterday's bomb threats may be related, but they are unsure if the incidents are connected with the Feb. 22 threat at Centennial High.
Sgt. Steve Keller, a police spokesman, said the bomb threats were a danger to public safety, caused heavy traffic problems, inconvenienced hundreds of county workers and could have prevented county police officers from responding to real emergencies.
"These were not pranks," Sergeant Keller said. "Pranks are something funny. I call this a crime. It put a lot of people in danger.
"We don't have the luxury of saying, 'It's a false report, it's no big deal,' " he said. "We have to investigate."
Making a false bomb threat is a misdemeanor crime punishable by a year in prison, a $10,000 fine or both, he said.
Anyone with information should call Howard County police at 313-3200.