High school target of 2nd bomb threat School officials waited before contacting police

Superintendent was called

Administrators to reassess procedures

April 16, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel and Tanya Jones | Andrea F. Siegel and Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

When the second bomb threat in less than a week was telephoned in to Arundel Senior High School yesterday, nobody contacted police for an hour and a half.

That, along with problems during last week's bomb scare and administrators' handling of a smoldering incendiary device last month during a gubernatorial visit at the school are prompting Anne Arundel County school officials to reassess the way they respond to such incidents.

When the incendiary device was found last month in a locker, an administrator moved it outside before fire officials arrived, dismaying them. The building was not evacuated, which dismayed parents. Authorities said students and the staff were not in danger because the device failed to ignite.

Yesterday, school officials did not contact authorities for 90 minutes after the telephoned threat.

"They should have called us as soon as possible," said Vaughn Dykes, a police spokesman.

A volunteer in the Gambrills school took a call from what sounded like an adult male at 9: 54 a.m. The caller said a bomb in a locker would explode at 1 p.m., police said.

Administrators initially sought out Superintendent Carol S. Parham, not police, fire or emergency personnel. Parham called Deputy Police Chief Patrick T. Shanahan at 11: 33 a.m.

By then, school officials had decided to evacuate the building and send students home instead of keeping them outside until after the threatened detonation time. It was the second emergency dismissal in a week. With a 1: 55 p.m. regular dismissal, students would barely have returned before packing up again.

Students, who were directed to wait in the football field for their buses, said yesterday's emergency dismissal was more orderly than the one Thursday. In the unseasonable cold, chilled students lighted small paper fires and played tag before some boarded the wrong buses.

Others packed their cars with friends. Some students missed buses and were allowed back into the school shortly after 1 p.m. Others left without books and notebooks they needed for tests today.

Three bomb-sniffing dogs searched the building from noon to about 12: 55 p.m. No bomb was found, and no one was hurt.

Schools spokeswoman Jane Doyle said she had no idea why Principal William Myers called the superintendent's office and not 911.

Myers said he called the Board of Education "to update them" and that "time was taken to appraise the situation."

The "Help" manual, a guidebook for principals, gives administrators leeway in handling bomb threats. It says to evacuate at least 20 minutes before the detonation time given in a bomb threat, to call police and to notify the office of the special assistant of the superintendent.

But it does not specify the order of the calls or whether to alert authorities on 911 or a police business line.

Last month, Assistant Principal Kohl Coffman moved a smoldering explosive device found in a locker, according to county police reports.

It was behind the school when fire investigators arrived.

Fire officials say not to touch anything suspected of being an explosive "because it could cause the device to activate," said Battalion Chief J. Gary Sheckells. The principals' manual does not address the handling of explosives, said Doyle.

Associate Superintendent Kenneth G. Lawson said he was inviting the fire marshal to the four May principals' meetings to discuss bombs, bomb-threat procedures and how principals should respond.

"Do we need to refine our guidelines; do we need to relook at the way we handle these?" Doyle said. "I think what we are going to do is sit down at the superintendent's direction with some different county agencies, to include the police, fire, sheriff's departments and whoever else we work with on this kind of issue."

After Thursday's bomb threat, some students told investigators that they expected another one yesterday, said Capt. Timothy Bowman, commander of the Western District police station. Police were unable to pin down the rumors, he said. Students heading home yesterday predicted another threat next week.

Fire investigators and police said they knew of no motive for the bomb threats, but many students think they are revenge for last Wednesday's arrest of a 16-year-old suspected of making and ** trying to detonate an amateurish device during a visit by Gov. Parris N. Glendening three weeks ago. The boy, who has been suspended, is charged with malicious burning, reckless endangerment, manufacturing an explosive device and attempting to explode another person's property.

Juvenile authorities are handling the case, and the teen-ager has been released to his father.

Pub Date: 4/16/97

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