Bomb threat scares children, parents at Denver Elementary


WILMINGTON — Parents and children were visibly upset Wednesday as children were dismissed from Denver Place Elementary School following a bomb threat that affected many schools in Ohio.

No evidence of a bomb was found, according to Wilmington Police Chief Duane Weyand. Weyand also said at least five other schools in southwestern Ohio received similar threats, though he estimated many more were affected.

City and county law enforcement agencies said no other schools in the county were affected.

An automated call reported the bomb threat to the Wilmington Police Department, which secured the area and searched the school.

Weyand said police were working to trace the phone calls, which he compared to “swatting,” the practice of reporting bogus crimes intentionally.

“The dilemma to it is that with technology they can create mass hysteria with a simple phone call like that,” Weyand said. “It’s problematic to investigate, and it’s problematic for the schools that have to deal with it.”

Weyand reassured parents that the schools are safe.

“The school’s always locked down,” Weyand said. “You can’t just come and go out of the school anyway. … They’re a pretty safe environment and it’s designed that way just for such situations.”

A spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Investigations confirmed the FBI is working with local law enforcement agencies on investigating similar threats made two weeks ago, and media reports indicate Homeland Security is also involved.

Those threats affected about 200 schools, including Roy E. Holmes Elementary School, according to Weyand and Wilmington City Schools Superintendent Ron Sexton. Weyand believes that many schools will be affected by Wednesday’s automated message, and media outlets continue to report other bomb threats in the state.

By mid-day Denver Place Elementary began releasing children from a secured area near the school to parents and relatives. Buses transported others home, but Sexton said children would only be let off the bus after contact was made with a guardian.

“Elementary students just don’t go home to an empty house,” Sexton said. “When the buses show up … if a parent doesn’t come out, we call to get the parent to come out.”

Those who still weren’t returned home were brought back to Wilmington City Schools property so staff could continue to contact parents.

Sexton said the district will account for every student and that the threat distressed children, put them at risk and interrupted their education.

“Districts get hit and somebody gets great enjoyment,” Sexton said. “I hope that sometime we can find out who this is, and I’d be happy to help any way we can to prosecute them to the fullest (extent) of the law because you’re disrupting the educational opportunities and you’re putting kids at risk.”

The children were evacuated to a nearby building. Some had recovered by the time parents were picking up children.

Others were visibly distressed, as were their parents.

Jerry Coffman, whose seven-year-old daughter attends Denver, was at work when a friend told him about the bomb threat.

“I dropped my phone and jumped in the truck and flew through town,” he said. “I can’t believe that it happened at the elementary school. My heart’s not stopped racing.”

Sexton said the district recalled teachers who were away at professional development so students could be with the teachers they were most familiar with.

“In many cases, I’ve found that the parents are more upset when they get there than the child,” he said. “Kids are pretty resilient. For any parent to get a call to say there’s any kind of threat to their child, they’re going to be nervous until they see that child and know that child is fine.”

Jenna Shaw, who picked up her visibly shaken niece from school, was one of the adults who was upset.

“This needs to stop,” she said.

Sexton agreed.

“Sadly, any person that would get excitement out of disrupting kids, I worry about them, about what is in their mind,” he said. “If Chief can get his hands on them, that would be just wonderful.”

Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.

Wilmington police officer Matt Hamilton directs traffic near Denver Place Elementary School. One child walking by told Hamilton, “Thank you for keeping us safe.” police officer Matt Hamilton directs traffic near Denver Place Elementary School. One child walking by told Hamilton, “Thank you for keeping us safe.”
Disrupts lives, schools throughout state

By Nathan Kraatz

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