Bomb scare response ‘perfect,’ Shealy says

Published 11:04 am Friday, February 21, 2014

bomb-threat

A day removed from a bomb threat that led to the evacuation of Vicksburg High School, Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Chad Shealy lauded the response from police, school security, faculty and students.
“It was perfect,” Shealy said. “Police beat me to the scene and had all the roads blocked off. Hats go off to the Vicksburg Police Department.”
As police looked into the bomb scare phoned into Vicksburg Warren E-911 about 9:53 a.m. Thursday, Shealy noted a swift response from police that included shutting down roads within about a two-block radius of entrances to the school.
“The sweep was done very effectively,” Shealy said late Thursday. “Almost instantaneously, our internal security, they were on site handling the problem.”
Vicksburg police Lt. Sandra Williams said the investigation is ongoing.
“There have not been any arrests but we’re following up on some leads,” she said.
Shealy said bomb threats to schools aren’t uncommon, but each one has to be addressed as if it’s a real threat.
“In every district, you get this fairly regularly,” he said. “It’s one of those things that you can’t ever take lightly.”
“I think it’s very unfortunate that our children are impeded in their educational pursuit by someone that’s very selfish,” he added.
During the evacuation, several parents gathered at the corner of Polk and Drummond Streets and were not allowed by police to move closer to the school.
Shealy said keeping the campus secure during a threat is paramount and having people coming on or off campus during an evacuation creates a dangerous situation. That, he said, is the reason schools don’t do robo-calls or alert parents until after the threat is done.
“When you have mass quantities of adults, they can panic and start removing children,” he said. “It creates an unsafe environment the more individuals you have coming on campus. Once the threat is removed, the children go back to learning.”
“The police department wouldn’t allow anyone to come in the area even if we did. The containment is there for security and safety reasons,” he added.
On Oct. 21, most schools in the district were evacuated after an anonymous 911 caller claimed to have planted a bomb in one of the district’s 15 schools.
No arrests were made, and no bomb was found during the October threat.
In April 2013, Warren Central High School was evacuated after a bomb threat was called in. No bomb was found in that case either.
Phoning in a bomb threat is a felony which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Anyone with information is urged to call the Vicksburg Police Department at 601-636-2511, Warren County Sheriff’s office at 601-636-1761 or Central Mississippi Crime Stoppers at 601-355-8477.
Callers to Crime Stoppers remain anonymous and do not have to testify in court. Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest of a felony suspect.
Six hours after students returned to class, the Vicksburg Warren School District reaffirmed a districtwide policy to screen elementary students for learning disabilities.
Meeting Thursday afternoon, the VWSD Board of Trustees approved a policy in which all students must be checked for speech or language delays or impediments by the end of their first-grade year.
“It had to be done,” Board President Jim Stirgus Jr. said.
If a student fails the screening test, the parent or legal guardian is notified of the results and the school district can perform a comprehensive evaluation.
Parents may provide written notification to the district to opt out of the mandatory screening.
The screen has students pronounce single- and double-syllable words and emphasize certain letters to a certified tester.
Board members were also honored with presentations from each of the district’s 15 schools — three for each board member — for School Board Recognition Month.
“It was a wonderful time to honor them,” Shealy said. “Rarely do they get the pats on the back for doing a tough job. They take on a lot of responsibility and do an amazing job.”
The VWSD Board of Trustees is comprised of District 1 Trustee Bryan Pratt, District 2 Trustee Alonzo Stevens, District 4 Trustee Joe Loviza and District 5 Trustee Sally Bullard. Stirgus represents District 3.