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Bomb threat disrupts school

May 17, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

A bomb threat briefly emptied South Hagerstown High School on Monday morning and police were searching for the caller who caused the disruption.

At approximately 9:15 a.m. a student aide answered the office telephone and the caller said there was a bomb in the school, according to Principal Michael Shockey. "It sounded like an adolescent," he said.

The school was evacuated for an hour as police, teachers and administrators searched the building. They determined South was secure at 10:30 a.m. and students returned from the parking lot as classes resumed.

The incident led to a shorter interruption than the May 4 evacuation of Boonsboro High School. It was the latest in a series of threats following the April 20 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

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Hagerstown City Police Officers Gerard Kendle and Dwayne Freeman investigated Monday's threat. The school's telephone system is connected to a central computer that logs all incoming calls, they said.

They traced the call to a pay phone at Pharmhouse Drugstore on Maryland Avenue behind the school. They obtained descriptions of a few juveniles from witnesses.

"We had some suspects that didn't pan out," Kendle said.

The police want to talk to a female who was seen with a few boys. She is not suspected of making the call, Kendle said. She was described as being white, with black hair with purple streaks and wearing black clothing, according to Kendle.

She also had multiple piercings, including a pierced nose and eyebrow.

Shockey said students were not allowed to leave without parental permission. "I'm allowing students to leave if their parents come and get them," he said Monday morning.

Several students left without permission and will be suspended, he said. "We cannot let kids do what they want in an emergency situation," said Shockey.

He said the caller disrupted the lives and education of 800 to 1,000 others. "Sometimes people do things as a joke or a hoax without realizing how many potentials for disaster they set in motion," he said.

Other than the six students who left school, everyone handled the threat well, Shockey said.

The person or persons responsible will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, he said.

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