Last Updated: 1:16 p.m.
Matanzas High School was on “Code Blue”–meaning a bomb threat–again for the second time in two months. The threat was made by phone, and was deemed a hoax.
Flagler County Sheriff’s Office deputies converged on the school just after 11 a.m., when the threat was made. “We have a small section of the campus relocated to the gym and theater,” Jason Wheeler, the district’s chief spokesman said shortly after noon. “Rest of campus is holding in place.” District staff is standing by as sheriff’s personnel conducts the investigation.
Sheriff’s units began to leave the school after 12:45 p.m., after conducting searches through specific buildings and at one point searching the bags of students who’d been directed to the school gym.
On Nov. 29, Matanzas High School received a phoned-in bomb threat that the school administration quickly concluded was not credible. The police response in that incident was limited. Then as now, the call was not local. The caller appears ton have made more than one call to the school.
But today’s threat has resulted in a significant response by the Sheriff’s Office. The campus was blocked off. The Sheriff’s Office was asking parents and guardians not to go to the school right now.
Just after 1 p.m., when the situation was resolved, the district issued a statement summarizing the incident. The call had been placed to the front office, the statement said. “Based on information in the phone call, students in building 5 were relocated to the school gymnasium and auditorium. The rest of the school was told to remain in place. An isolated K9 search of the campus was conducted.” The all-clear was given at 12:45 p.m.
The statement added: “We commend the students and staff who acted quickly when asked to relocate or remain in place. While it was a stressful situation, their cooperation allowed for a quick resolution by giving the FCSO deputies the space to do their job without added distractions.” The district is cooperating with authorities “to locate and prosecute the person responsible for this disruption of the school day.”
Bomb threats against schools are almost routine across the country, occurring in spates and following similar playbooks, with those making threats using internet or proxy phone services, to prevent tracing, making threats that at times refer to specific buildings, but proving again and again to be hoaxes similar to swatting calls–when someone calls 911 to claim that a shooting or something similar has taken place at a specific address.
The calls trigger a police response, interrupt the school day, and cause significant anxiety for those on campus and in the community, even as the calls prove to be empty threats. “The potential for serious injury and damage makes even an empty threat a very serious incident,” a Department of Justice briefing about bomb threats against schools states.
This week alone, a school in San Gabriel, California, another in Wilmington, Ohio, and another in Floyd County, Kentucky, were all the targets of bomb threats, all found ton be not credible. In the Wilmington case, a 17-year-old boy was arrested and charged with “inducing panic.” There have been no reported threats in surrounding counties in the past few days.