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Bomb threat closes Berkeley County schools

May 07, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - All 13,000 students in Berkeley County schools were sent home early Friday after someone called the central office saying a bomb would go off in one of the schools later in the day, according to Superintendent of Schools Manny Arvon.

Police, firefighters and school officials fanned out across the county to check the district's 25 schools for explosives following the threat.

They found nothing, Arvon said.

The incident left school officials and others angered and searching for answers for the threat, which was similar to others made against Tri-State area schools in the wake of the April 20 slayings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

"I think everyone's had enough. I am angry that someone would do this to our community," Arvon said at the end of a tiring day Friday.

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Also Friday, Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, called for an emegency town meeting on Sunday to start finding ways to address the threats of violence. Unger said the open forum at 4 p.m. in War Memorial Park will offer a chance for parents, teachers and concerned community leaders to come together to find answers.

"We can't continue to have this. Our community is starting to come under seige," said Unger.

The bomb threat was called into the central office on South Queen Street about 11:30 a.m., Arvon said. The caller's voice sounded like that of a young adult, said Arvon.

Later in the day, school officials were using a computer in an attempt to identify who made the call, said Arvon. The star-69 command can be used at the central office to determine the last incoming call, but there are so many calls received in the office that it is difficult to tell who might have made such a call, Arvon said.

Middle and high school students were sent home at 12:30 p.m. and elementary students were dismissed at 1:30 p.m.

A bomb-sniffing dog from the Internal Revenue Service office in Martinsburg was used to search Martinsburg High School and Musselman High School, Arvon said. Special attention was paid to those schools because of large events being held at the schools this weekend, Arvon said.

Martinsburg will host a track meet and Musselman will be having its prom at the school tonight.

At least three deputies and some sheriff's reserve units will be at Musselman tonight to maintain calm.

School officials decided to close schools for the day Friday because the threat was received early and no school was pinpointed. School officials have been able to avoid canceling classes for some threats because they were received later in the day when students were getting ready to leave, Arvon said.

Arvon is asking for help from the community in gathering information about the threat.

The school system has a school violence hot line at 1-800-418-6423, extension 359. Or information can be reported to Berkeley County Crime Solvers at 1-304-267-4999.

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