“It can’t happen here.”
After the many incidents across the country, this can still be the feeling of people in places yet untouched by such violence. Last Wednesday, Winslow Junior High School had a rude awakening. Many students and families were so frightened that there were some absences the next day.
By Friday, things looked back to normal - but both students and staff confessed to tension. People had headaches at 8:30 a.m. and one staff member said “I feel like having a nervous breakdown.”
The bomb threat was brought to the school office after 1 p.m. Wednesday by a student who said he found the paper in the bathroom. Immediately Principal Jim McLean evacuated the school, called the police and called the superintendent’s office. That night, at the school board meeting McLean said that he was proud of his staff for the speed with which they got their students out and pleased with the response from the Winslow Police Department which was on the scene at 1:41 p.m.
The police set up a perimeter and cleared the facility, not finding any bomb.
Students had been removed from their first evacuation site on the football field to the New Gym due to the inclement weather. After it was cleared students were allowed to return to the building.
There were two further threats on Thursday and Friday, but they were proven groundless. The investigation continues for these threats.
By Friday morning police department investigation determined that there were four boys involved in the Wednesday incident. They are all 14 years old. The police department did not withhold their names since the counts with which three are charged are felonies and the names were released to KINO radio and the Reminder as well as the Winslow Mail. The three primarily responsible were arrested March 3 on the following charges: Interference with the Peaceful Conduct of Educational Institutions, False Reporting, Aggravated Assault, Threatening and Intimidating and Endangerment. They were taken to Holbrook for a court appearance at 3:15 p.m. the same day.
A fourth student was not arrested at this time, but will be disciplined within the school system. He knew about the plan, but did not participate in it.
All four students are on suspension from school and three have been recommended for expulsion. Their cases will be reviewed and a decision made by the school district Governing Board, who will be advised by Atty. Dale Patton.
The letter to parents from Superintendent of Schools Dr. David R. Black says, “when the person(s) responsible for the threats is[are] found he[they] will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. In addition, if the person is found to be a student, it will be recommended to the Governing Board to expel the student(s) from the Winslow Unified School District.”
Dr. Black added, “It is imperative that you talk with your children and inform them of the seriousness of being associated or involved with threats against students, staff or the school building. All threats are taken very seriously and pranks and jokes will not be tolerated.”
The Winslow school district had completed an Emergency Manage-ment training session only the week before the threat was made. This had been long planned and included representatives from the police and fire departments, the BNSF, ADOT and attendees from many surrounding school districts and even all the way to Gila Bend.
In the training session they heard from the experts and they formed groups to play out various emergency situations. The police department and the school system have cooperated on a manual covering many situations including a checklist for bomb threats.
Superintendent Black noted at the Governing Board meeting Wednesday night that these procedures, which have been worked on for over a year, proved invaluable during the crisis. He said that he appreciated the prompt and proper moves made by the WJHS principal and the full cooperation of the police department.
[Editor’s Note: The Winslow Mail is declining to publish the boy’s names due to their age.]