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Jefferson High closed after bomb threat

April 28, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson High School students were sent home Wednesday after a bomb threat was called into the school at 8 a.m., according to West Virginia State Police.

A bomb-sniffing dog borrowed from the Internal Revenue Service in Martinsburg was used to search the school, but no bomb was found, said Trooper E.D. Widmeyer.

The dog "hit" on a couple of lockers, but came up only with a sandwich, said Superintendent of Schools David W. Markoe.

During bomb threats, students at the school typically are kept outside until authorities inspect the school.

But Markoe said the decision was made to close the school for the rest of the day to allow police to thoroughly search the school, which is along Shenandoah Junction Road about two miles west of Charles Town.

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Considering the reverberations still being felt from the April 20 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., last week, local school officials want to be as "safe and cautious" as possible, Markoe said.

"We are serious when we say this school system will not tolerate such threats. These actions are not funny. They are at best disruptive and frightening, and at worst, could lead to injury as students try to leave the building," Markoe said.

School officials say they have a suspect in the case but would not elaborate.

Widmeyer said troopers talked to one Jefferson High School student about the incident at his home Wednesday.

The school's phone system does not have Caller ID service, but the phone system will identify the phone numbers from which the last 10 incoming calls were made, Widmeyer said.

Police were looking at the last 10 numbers received at about the time of the bomb threat in an attempt to find out who made the call, Widmeyer said.

"We're going to look into this pretty seriously," Widmeyer said.

School officials also hope a $500 reward leading to the arrest of the person responsible for the threat will help solve the case.

A $500 reward offered earlier in the year for a bomb threat at the school led to a yearlong expulsion of a student, Markoe said. The student was required to pay the $500 reward, Markoe said.

Since the Colorado shooting, there has been a bomb threat at a Boonsboro, Md., school, and two students from Jefferson County and the Chambersburg Area school districts have been removed from classes because of threats they allegedly made.

In Jefferson County, a Charles Town Junior High School student was suspected of planning to bring a gun to school on Monday.

The incident stemmed from an altercation between two students last Wednesday, Markoe said.

The person who made Wednesday's bomb threat did not make any reference to any previous school violence, and Markoe said the call probably was a prank.

"All they said was 'This is a bomb threat,' and hung up," Markoe said.

About 1,600 students attend Jefferson High.

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