SHOWELL — Hundreds of Showell Elementary students were evacuated from the school building for a couple of hours yesterday as authorities investigated a potential bomb threat.
Around 8:40 a.m. yesterday, Maryland State Police officers responded to Showell Elementary to investigate a reported bomb threat on the school made during an apparent domestic dispute Wednesday night. According to a source close to the situation, an unidentified man was involved in a domestic dispute with his estranged wife, the mother of a student at Showell, the night before and made a veiled threat to blow up a classroom at the facility.
School officials immediately set in motion Showell’s prescribed and practiced emergency plan and the students, teachers and staff were evacuated from the building in a measure of “extreme caution.” The students, teachers and administrators remained outside the building for about two hours as Maryland State Police investigators along with allied law enforcement agencies searched the building for a potential explosive device.
A bomb-sniffing dog was brought in to do a complete scan of the school building and property, which turned up negative. Students, teachers and administrators started trickling back into the facility around 11 a.m., over two hours after police first arrived on the scene.
Colonel Doug Dods of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office said yesterday the investigation was ongoing.
“At this point, we don’t think it was a valid threat,” he said. “Investigators are trying to track down where it came from. It appears somebody took something out of context. We had people calling and telling us there were armed gunmen in the school. That’s how it snowballs.”
According to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes, when police informed school administrators of the potential threat, Showell Elementary’s school safety plan was immediately put into effect.
“The State Police arrived at the school around 8:40 a.m. and informed the administration about the situation,” he said. “As a result of that information, we implemented the school’s safety plan, which we practice and rehearse monthly in preparation for a potential situation such as this. Our primary concern is for the safety the children, and as a precaution we evacuated the facility to provide police with an opportunity to search the school.”
County Schools Public Information Officer Barb Witherow said yesterday the school’s automated message system was activated to inform parents about the pending situation.
“The students practice evacuation drills once a month and as a result, we had a very calm and very organized evacuation,” she said. “You hope that you never need the plan in real life, but it worked exactly how it was designed to work.”