By Ann Needle
Almost two dozen schools in Massachusetts and elsewhere in the U.S. have received bomb threats over the past few weeks. This unsettling news was brought home last week when Minuteman High School weathered its own bomb threat, underscoring the importance of a state law requiring schools to have formal plans for handling these emergency situations.
According to an email sent to parents within hours of the incident on Jan. 19, Minuteman Superintendent Dr. Edward Bouquillon explained, “This morning, Minuteman High School received a pre-recorded phone message indicating a bomb threat at the school. Assistant Principal Brian Tildsley immediately contacted the Lexington Police Department, and acted in accordance with the district’s crisis response plan. “
Neither Bouquillon nor Tildsley would comment on how students and staff were handled in the situation, although there were parent reports that students sheltered in place, although that wasn’t confirmed by the school.
Bouquillon stated, “As this is an active investigation, now involving the FBI, I am not at liberty to provide details. I do not mean to be evasive, but I would be very surprised if any school will provide you any detail in regards to specific protocols. Sharing specific protocols with the public is not an acceptable security practice, for reasons I am sure are obvious.”
Other schools in the area receiving similar threats reported responses ranging from shelting in place to evacating for the day.
Bouquillon said that, per the school’s protocol, police conducted a threat assessment, swept the building in search of explosives, and increased its presence around Minuteman. “We are able to report that our actions have not produced any evidence that lends validity to the threat,” Bouquilon noted to parents.
According to the MA State Police, more than 20 school districts in MA received bomb threats between January 15 and 19. Several other states also reported similar threats in the past few weeks.
Though schools in the Nashoba District have not been targeted in this wave of threats, Interim Superintendent Dr. Curtis Bates emailed the Nashoba community last week, assuing that the district is prepared to handle such an emergency situation. He noted that, as called for under state law, “The Nashoba Regional School District has a comprehensive Safety/Crisis Plan in place that is reviewed annually by the District’s Police and Fire Departments to assure all of your students, faculty and staff are safe. I have advised all building administrators to review the current District’s School Crisis Staff Handbook/Immediate Response protocols and processes.”
In addition, last year Nashoba formed its Emergency Response Task Force as a subcommittee of its School Health Advisory Council. Under Nashoba Coordinator of Health and Wellness Donna Linstrom, the Task Force—consisting of parents, law enforcment, staff, emergency responders, and others acrosss the district’s three towns— uses the state’s “prevent-prepare-respond-recover” to set goals. Among the goals the Task Force listed for this school year were continuing to assess current safety and security codes in each building, along with potential hazards and threats in the schools; developing recommendations if safety/security upgrades are needed; and planning for recovery management after an incident.
As for the district’s security plan, Acting Bolton Police Chief Warren Nelson stressed, “It’s still good, but it’s outdated, and the Task Force is doing a great job keeping up with [security] changes.”