School was canceled Thursday in Bucyrus, Ohio after the district received a bomb threat via Twitter. Several emergency and law enforcement agencies investigated, and while it appears to have been a false alarm, they and the school’s administration were not amused.
Reacting to the Threat
The school district released a statement on their website explaining the situation. The threat hit Twitter at 4:53 a.m. Thursday morning, all buildings were closed at 7, and the staff was informed at 7:15.
“We are working collaboratively with the City of Bucyrus Police Department, Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio State Highway Patrol and Allen County Sheriff’s Office to ensure that all our buildings are safe, said Superintendent Kevin Kimmel. “We take threats to the safety and security of our students and staff very seriously and will work diligently to secure our buildings.”
The administration held a 2 p.m. press conference, which they live-streamed on the school’s Facebook page. Mr. Kimmel explained at that time that the authorities began sweeping the buildings with bomb-sniffing dogs shortly before 8 a.m. and that the all-clear was given for the secondary school building at 10 and the elementary at 11:20.
Kimmel said that the school maintains an emergency plan and that they followed it today, and he thanked the various emergency and law enforcement agencies for their quick and efficient response. The search included the local fire department, the Department of Emergency Management, police officers from the city, state, and two counties, an FBI agent from the nearest field office, and a total of four dogs.
All school activities had been canceled for the day, but Mr. Kimmel assured everyone that the school was completely clear, the threat is now being considered a hoax, and that if class is canceled Friday, that it would only be due to inclement weather. All sporting events were rescheduled as well.
They did not release any information regarding the Twitter account that made the threat. David Koepke, the Bucyrus Police Chief, did say that his department would be continuing the investigation and, should they trace it back to an individual, that they will pursue felony charges. He said that the city will take the lead on this, but that he would be reaching out to other agencies better equipped to help uncover the identity of the person behind the threat, and he specifically gave the Department of Homeland Security as one example.
In response to a reporter’s question regarding the cost of the morning’s hijinks, Mr. Kimmel said:
“A huge financial burden. At this point, a daily cost to the district is about $30,000 in lost salary and benefits for today in a district of our size, not counting the loss of income from food service and some of the other related costs. But more importantly, we lose a day of instruction with the students – and that’s an important thing that we got to keep in mind. So, there was both a financial loss for today and in instructional loss.”
But, of course, there is more to the cost than just the school’s financial and instructional loss. A fire department, emergency management, four police departments, and the FBI responded to the threat. That’s going to cost local taxpayers a pretty penny, as will the continued investigation. Every parent of every child in the school had to make emergency arrangements – quite likely, for most, including paying for childcare or missing a day of work.
If the threat was intended as a joke, which is entirely possible, no one else found it amusing. However, if the intent was merely to disrupt the school’s function and cause a panic, it was quite successful. Either way, bomb threats are more than just pranks. While a hoax is the best-case scenario in this situation, it is still a serious matter. There is a cost to those being pranked, and, if caught, there is a high price to pay for the prankster.