Responding to school bomb threats - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Responding to school bomb threats


Madison (WKOW) -- Local and state officials say last week's rash of school bomb threats focuses attention on using precise threat assessment to respond.

   Experts say a decision to cancel classes in response to a threat, which happened at several schools including DeForest High School, comes from a collaboration of school and police officials sizing up each threat individually.

   "Officials are taking all threats seriously,"  Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction student wellness team assistant director Steve Fernan told 27 News.

   "While they may take different levels of action to respond, they're not dismissing bomb threats out of hand."

   At Oregon high school, a bomb threat appeared on a bathroom wall.   Schools superintendent Brian Busler says it was determined to be a hoax and the school remained open.  

 "The police department goes through a really rigorous protocol to determine what's a low risk threat, what's a medium risk threat, what's a high risk threat.   This threat was categorized as low risk."   Busler says a teenage girl was idenitifed as the author of the hoax. 

   State officials say the precise work of assessing a school bomb threat,   whether it is scrawled on a bathroom wall, delivered in a text message or telephoned to a school official,  is no accident.

   "There's more and more, not only written policies developed, but also practices, so they can practice their procedure, whether it be through table top exercises, or actual practicing how they would lock down their building , how they would evacuate,  how they would transport students,"  Fernan said.

   Fernan says DPI will sponsor a series of statewide worshops on response to school bomb threats beginning in January in Fennimore.   Fernan says this is the first time such training has focused specifically on this issue.

   DeForest school officials have declined any comment on their decision to cancel classes last week in response to a bomb threat.   No explosives were found.

   And while legal liability may exist for a school if a legitimate threat was ignored, a Madison school official says attornies are not part of any threat assessment team, only school and security officials.

   Experts say hoaxes and copy-cats can be discouraged by publicizing consequences, including:

   (1) Student suspension or explusion.

   (2) Requiring special passes or escorts for student bathroom visits.

   (3) Evacuation plans involving students spending several hours on school buses to allow for a school bomb-sweep.


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