High school closed by bomb scare Phoned threat causes evacuation of 2,000, then shutdown

Some suspect revenge

Call is made one day after youth is charged in March 27 incident

April 11, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

One day after police charged a 16-year-old student with igniting an explosive device in Arundel Senior High School during a recent gubernatorial visit, a bomb threat threw the school into confusion and finally shut it down yesterday.

Anne Arundel County police said they found no bomb at the Gambrills school and they are unsure if the call was connected to the arrest they made in the case of an explosive device found smoldering in a hall locker March 27.

"There is a bomb in the school that will go off today," an anonymous male caller told the school's switchboard operator, police reported. The call came shortly after 10 a.m., during third period, not long after a fire drill.

The alarm sent 2,000 students -- a few wearing jackets and some in gym clothes -- into the unseasonably nippy spring air, where they played tag and huddled to keep warm.

"It was really fun," said one student.

After 45 minutes, complications developed that resulted in the closing of the school.

"We got word that we weren't able to get the [bomb-sniffing] dogs out there," said school spokeswoman Jane W. Doyle.

Because buses used for Arundel Senior High students transport kindergartners at midday, a decision to keep the school open would have meant stranding shivering students outside, Doyle said.

Officials began sending students home about 11: 30 a.m, without coats, keys or other possessions that were in the school. Some students took cars full of friends to their homes; others took the wrong buses; and some drivers pressed into service didn't know the routes to get their charges home and did some creative wandering, students said.

The bomb-sniffing dogs didn't show up until 11: 45 a.m., police spokesman Vaughn Dykes said. The dogs and their officers usually work a night shift and had to be called in.

Police declared the building safe at 12: 43 p.m. The school day normally ends at 1: 55 p.m.

Some students suspected the call was revenge for a classmate's arrest Wednesday.

Battalion Chief J. Gary Sheckells said fire investigators charged the teen-ager with malicious burning, reckless endangerment, manufacturing an explosive and attempting to explode another person's property in connection with a Molotov cocktail device found two weeks earlier during a visit to the school by Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Juvenile authorities are handling the case. The boy was released to his father.

"During the interview, the youth admitted to manufacturing an explosive device and setting a fire in a locker," Sheckells said. "Asked why he did it, he said more than anything to get out of school that day."

The student could miss much more than a day. He could be expelled or placed on long-term suspension, said Huntley J. Cross, special assistant for student discipline.

The student told investigators that he had learned through the Internet how to make the device, Sheckells said.

Such information circulates in cyberspace, with easy-to-follow instructions. One site describes a Molotov cocktail, and variations, with this encouraging start: "One of the simplest incendiary devices invented."

The device found at 9: 30 a.m. March 27 -- the day before spring break -- burned out instead of detonating, Sheckells said.

Parents criticized school officials then for not evacuating the building and not contacting police until after the governor had left.

Pub Date: 4/11/97

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