Parham admits error in bomb threat incident School chief takes heat for delayed call to police

April 17, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Acknowledging that it was wrong to wait 90 minutes to call police to report a bomb threat, Anne Arundel County schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham said last night she was taking both responsibility for the error and steps to correct it.

"Our response time was inappropriate, as far as I am concerned," she said in brief remarks at last night's school board meeting.

Shortly before 10 a.m. Tuesday, a volunteer at Arundel Senior High School took a call from an adult male who said a bomb would explode in the school at 1 p.m. While Arundel High administrators and top school system officials were contacted, no calls went out to public safety agencies.

By the time Parham called county Deputy Police Chief Patrick T. Shanahan at 11: 33 a.m., officials had decided to evacuate the school and send students home. County police criticized the delay.

It was the second emergency dismissal for a bomb scare at the Gambrills school in a week, although in the earlier incident the caller did not specify a time for an explosion and students were evacuated immediately.

Also, when Gov. Parris N. Glendening visited the school last month, a smoldering incendiary device was discovered. School administrators moved it outside and did not evacuate the building.

EMS/Fire/Rescue officials said any suspicious package should not be moved because jarring it could cause it to detonate. Parents were upset that the school was not emptied immediately.

Parham said her immediate rule changes for bomb scares call for a building to be evacuated immediately, for administrators to call the emergency 911 line at the same time and for school officials to then call her office. Current guidelines for principals give them leeway on when to call authorities and whether to call 911 or the nonemergency number.

Parham said she had begun meeting with county police and fire officials yesterday and would continue to do so in the interest of assuring the safety of students and staff.

"I accept responsibility for what occurred [Tuesday]. I am grateful for the opportunity" to correct the situation, she said.

In other business, the school board voted to relieve crowding at George Fox Middle School in Pasadena by shifting up to 270 students to Chesapeake Bay Middle School.

The students to be shifted would be those who live in the attendance area for Riviera Beach Elementary School and some in the attendance area for Sunset Elementary School.

However, the changes would be phased in to allow students now in the sixth and seventh grades at George Fox to complete middle school there if they wish.

The board had not completed the rest of redistricting by The Sun's deadline.

Pub Date: 4/17/97

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