Page schools work to develop parent notification procedures following March 13 LHS bomb threat

Page News and Courier

LURAY ― The local school system will work to establish a parent notification protocol as part of division-wide security efforts.

The latest efforts come as a response, at least in part, following the evacuation of Luray High School last week following a bomb threat that was later determined to be a prank.

Around “meal time” last Monday, said Director of Support Services for Page County Public Schools Tim Harris, Luray High School received a written threat. School officials declined to release some details about the incident in an effort to deter “copy-cat” threats, they said.

“We evaluated the validity of the threat and did a modified lockdown, keeping students and faculty in secure locations,” said Harris. “We worked with law enforcement to determine as much as we could about the threat, and moved them to the Luray Middle School gym.”

School security procedures vary in the instance of a threat, added director of human resources and administration Paul Johnson, taking each aspect into consideration, including the method a threat is delivered.

“If there's any chance it could be valid, you have to act accordingly,” Johnson said. “In this case, it was determined that students and staff should be bussed to another location.”

With the exception of those deemed “key personnel,” said Harris, all students and staff were evacuated while the Page County Sheriff's Office searched the building. Lunches were transported from the high school to the middle school gym during that time. Law enforcement officials determined that the threat was a hoax, said Harris, and “all students were back at the high school by 2 p.m.”

The school system does not currently have an automated system to communicate with parents, but following the evacuation last week, staff worked to inform parents of their child's whereabouts, allowing students to be picked up at LMS. The division's safety procedures, said Whitley-Smith, do not allow non-essential vehicles to enter or exit a campus during security incidents, including last week's threat.

Some parents took to social media to express concern and frustration over the incident and the time it took them to be notified.

Superintendent for the local school system Donna-Whitley Smith said the division is discussing options for implementing a protocol for quickly and accurately notifying students' families about emergencies and school security incidents.

The protocol would serve as another step made by the local school system in recent years to tighten security, beginning in 2014 when the school board approved the construction of vestibules at each of the county's schools. Those vestibules ― which are in place at all of the county's schools with the exception of the Page County Technical Center ― provide a single entry point for visitors. Using grant funding, the division has worked to bolster security further by installing monitoring systems.

Using that system, noted Harris, school officials and law enforcement officers were able to “identify every individual we thought might be able to provide information.”

“Law enforcement is actively running through the evidence they have,” said Johnson. “We don't want kids to think they can do this as a prank ― there are serious consequences, including criminal charges and fines.”

Those fines, continued Johnson, could potentially total thousands of dollars ― including the cost of fuel used to evacuate students to LMS.

Statistically, added Harris, most bomb threats turn out to be invalid.

“But you have to take them at the worst possible outcome,” he said.

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