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Common Sense

The Student News Site of Thomas S. Wootton High School

Common Sense

The Student News Site of Thomas S. Wootton High School

Common Sense

Second bomb threat of the year calls directed evacuation protocol into review

Video courtesy @wootton_memes on Instagram

Run! That is what my class was told to do after our teacher realized the second floor had already been evacuated. As we were running out of the building and toward the Fallsmead bridge, I couldn’t help but think, what if the bomb went off right now, would I be in danger? The answer was yes.

This school had its second bomb threat on Friday, Jan. 12 at approximately 2 p.m.. The school went into a directed evacuation that was announced over the intercom.

Before the announcement, it was an average day in class: students were working quietly, asking questions and collaborating to complete their assignments. Then, an announcement was made, “We will now be moving to a directed evacuation. This is not a drill. I repeat this is not a drill.”

The first floor of the school was evacuated followed by the second. However, our substitute teacher didn’t hear the announcement that directed the second-floor’s evacuation. After realizing the other classes on the second floor had evacuated, that’s when he told our entire class to run.

If there was a real bomb, who knows if we would’ve evacuated in time? Nonetheless, the real chaos was the aftermath. We were all instructed that a direct evacuation was to take place, and so most classes were evacuated in an orderly fashion to their designated locations: the baseball and stadium fields, the Rockshire parking lot or in my case, the sidewalk along the Fallsmead bridge. During this evacuation process, some classes got split up in the commotion – which I expected from being in an emergency – but what I did not expect was the waiting.

Students and staff lined up on the sidewalk along Wootton Parkway (many of whom were told to carry their backpacks with them) and were waiting for police and administration to declare the building safe to re-enter. Two hours after the initial evacuation, transportation for students had arrived, and by 4:30 students were on their way home. However, the late dismissal only worsened the traffic as worried parents tried to pick up their students at the same time as Frost’s dismissal. “I was overcome with a torrent of emotions upon hearing about the bomb threat at my daughters’ school. The initial shock and fear were almost paralyzing, as the safety of my child and all the students and staff at the school became my foremost concern. The uncertainty during these moments was deeply unsettling. However, I was relieved to see the swift and efficient response from the school and local authorities. Their prompt action in evacuating the school provided some comfort in an otherwise chaotic situation,” a parent of two students, Jyoti Khetan said.

In reflection, this evacuation was not as efficient as it could’ve been. This was reflected in the way students behaved, such as leaving campus. It was a Friday afternoon, and I, like others, had things to do after school, whether it was getting to work on time, going home to watch siblings or a sports competition. Therefore, it was no surprise to me that students didn’t continue waiting around with still no dismissal time in sight. That being said, there needs to be a way for students to confirm their attendance, and if they have a mode of transportation they should be able to leave. Prior to this, my class attendance was never taken, which also was a red flag for me. What if a student had been missing? No one would’ve known. In order to address this lack of communication between administration and teachers in the evacuation, “we …. could have done better with students knowing where to go when reporting to holding locations. As a follow-up to this evacuation, a communication went out to staff so they were provided specific guidance about the evacuation and where we can improve,” Nelson said.

As I saw, if students are not allowed to leave campus, events can escalate quickly and even dangerously. Students around me ran across the street because a staff member was guarding the crosswalk to prevent students from leaving campus. Other students ran in hordes through narrow exits hoping to escape, without being chased down by staff members. While this behavior is both unacceptable and unsafe for students, it highlights a conflict that students feel is a change worth making to streamline these evacuation procedures and create a realistic set of expectations for both students and staff.

Following this incident, parents like Khetan have been extremely conscious of their children’s safety at school. “This incident, nonetheless, has left a lasting impact on me, heightening my awareness and concern for the security measures at my daughters’ school,” Khetan said.

Nelson offers assurance to parents that, “We are prepared. As an administrator with more than a decade of experience, I have come to know that it is not a matter of if something happens, it is a matter of when something happens,” Nelson said.

Thankfully, there was no bomb present at school, however, these issues with attendance and dismissal protocol caused me to question my safety when an incident like this really does happen.

Video Courtesy @wootton_memes on Instagram
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About the Contributor
Naina Giare, managing editor
Junior Naina Giare is a managing editor in her third year on the Common Sense staff. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music and spending time outside with friends and family. You can also find her on IG @naina.giare
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