Wednesday, February 20, 2002
If it was intended as a hoax, no one was amused. But at approximately 8:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 19, someone wrote "BOMB IN SCHOOL" on a mirror in the boy's bathroom in C Court.
Once alerted to the message, school officials followed their established safety plan, sounded the fire alarms and evacuated the school, then called in law enforcement officials.
After the first police officer arrived, a preliminary inspection of high school buildings was initiated, with school officials and police looking for "anything suspicious or out of place," according to Tim McGlothlin, principal of Columbia High School.
Because it was raining, the students were soon directed to wait in the Henkle Middle School gymnasium. Henkle itself was not evacuated, although the two classrooms closest to the high school were closed during the search.
"We thought about closing Henkle too," said Dale Palmer, superintendent of the White Salmon Valley School District. "But we believed Henkle Middle School was not in jeopardy. We closed the two classes nearest the high school as a precaution."
Just before 10 a.m., school was called off for the rest of the day. All students were sent home, with school buses brought in early to transport the students.
Administrators said they did not release the students immediately because they were hopeful a student might come forward to admit the message was a hoax.
"If we had gotten an admission that it was a hoax, we could have resumed school," McGlothlin said. "But without that, we have to err on safety's side."
The high school was closed down for the rest of the day, while police conducted a through search of the buildings, grounds, lockers, and elsewhere.
"Nothing was found in the buildings," McGlothlin said. He added that all lockers were searched, and if students had not left combinations or keys in the office -- as is the procedure -- locks were cut off to gain access.
School officials say they have some leads about who left the message. They say they are trying to identify two students believed to be responsible for the incident, and vow to prosecute.
"We have leads at this point but nothing specific," McGlothlin said. McGlothlin added that making a bomb threat is a felony offense.
"All indications are it's a hoax, but we always err on the side of safety," Palmer added. "With a threat like that, we protect kids and the staff first, and always take it seriously. Protection of students is always our focus."
Classes were scheduled to resume as normal on Wednesday. Palmer said he would make a decision later on whether or when to make up for the lost school day.