LISBON - Students and staff were evacuated from Beaver Local High School following the discovery of a what appeared to be a bomb threat on Thursday morning. A two-hour search through the building by personnel from the Columbiana County Sheriff's Office, West Point Fire Department and Youngstown Police Department Bomb Squad yielded no explosive device. Students were able to return to classes by 12:45 p.m.
Beaver Local Schools Superintendent Kent Polen said he received a call from BLHS assistant principal Jayson Yeagley at 9:37 a.m., informing him that a student had found a bomb threat in boys room. Written in pencil on the wall of one of the bathroom stalls was the message, "Bomb at 10:45."
Polen contacted the fire department and sheriff's office, who in turn called the Youngstown Bomb Squad for assistance. After a suspicious-looking black zipper case was found in the boys room trash can, Polen advised Yeagley to activate the school's fire alarm and evacuate the students out to the football stadium. State Route 7 was briefly closed by sheriff's deputies around 10 a.m., so the 400 students could safely walk across the road to the middle school to wait while the search was conducted.
An innocent-looking cheer poster in the gymnasium of Beaver Local High School took on a menacing edge following a bomb scare Thursday morning at the school. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
Though nothing suspicious was found inside the case, Polen said that the students' safety was his first concern, which meant taking every possible precaution. "At that point and time, we take every threat seriously," he said.
After the building search had been completed, traffic on Route 7 was halted again and the students walked back across the road to finish their school day.
The sheriff's department had arrested a juvenile suspect, a student from the school, by 3:30 p.m., and taken him to the Louis Tobin Juvenile Center in Lisbon, where he remains. The suspect had been determined from interviews conducted with students and teachers, in cooperation with school officials.
Stone said charges of delinquency by means of making terroristic threats would likely be filed in juvenile court on Friday. Disciplinary measures at the school level will include a 10-day suspension and possible expulsion following a disciplinary hearing.
Principal Tom Cunningham, who was away from the building at a meeting when the threat was reported, returned to the school immediately after he was notified. He said the hallways and bathrooms are patrolled regularly by teachers and administrators. One of those monitors, special education teacher Michael Spinella, said a student emerging from the boys room informed him that he had found the message written on one of the stalls.
When asked about a motive, Cunningham said he suspects nothing more than an attempt to get school canceled and everyone sent home for the day. Since that didn't occur, he believes there's no reason for anyone to attempt a copycat incident. "I think the novelty wore off after an hour or two over there (at the middle school)," he said.
Cunningham said classes and all afterschool events will proceed as usual on Friday. "We'll just pick up as a normal day and go from there," he said. Since school was never technically dismissed, it will not cost the school a calamity day. First two and last two periods were completed, Cunningham said, so it worked out like a two-hour delay.
Polen said he was very impressed with how smoothly the evacuation transpired. "The staff has done a tremendous job today, coming together and making sure everyone's safe," he said. He also complimented personnel at the middle school for accommodating the students and staff from across the road, including cafeteria workers who unexpectedly had to feed more than double the amount of students.
"I couldn't be more pleased with the way everyone responded, from the sheriff and fire departments, to the students and staff," Polen said. "They really responded well under the circumstances."