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'Suspicious' books cancel classes

October 12, 2000

'Suspicious' books cancel classes



By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer


A box containing paperbacks was reported as a "suspicious package" in an incident that canceled classes at South Hagerstown High School and the Alternative Learning Center.

First noticed by a school custodian at 6:30 a.m., the package was on the steps approaching the front door of South High on South Potomac Street.

"It was neatly and tightly wrapped in newspaper," said Hagerstown Fire Marshal John Hersh. "The box was a little bigger than a brick and just smaller than a shoebox."

Jim Woods, a bomb technician with the Maryland Fire Marshal's office, responded from his Hagerstown home.

Wearing full bomb gear, Woods approached the front steps from the command post that had been set up in the south parking lot of the school.

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He X-rayed the box and studied the images for signs of explosives. Finding none, he opened the box.

"It has some type of literature in it," Woods said.

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith confirmed that the contents were paperbacks.

When the package was first reported to school authorities, Hagerstown City Police and the Fire Department quickly responded to the scene.

School officials including South High Principal Mike Shockey and Dennis McGee, director of facilities management, stood at the entrance to the school.

Fire police turned away all school buses and private vehicles containing students and teachers on their way to school.

South High has 874 students and the Alternative Learning Center has 33, according to Donna Messina, community relations specialist.

The response was a cautious approach, according to Messina.

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