EAST LIVERPOOL - East Liverpool High School was evacuated for about an hour Thursday afternoon when writing was found on a bathroom stall door that indicated an explosion could be expected that afternoon.
Superintendent James Herring said a student entered a second-floor restroom at 2:05 p.m. and noticed writing on the inside of a stall door reading, "BOOM," with "2:16 p.m." written underneath. Off to the side was a drawing that Herring said resembled a stick of dynamite.
The student notified school officials just as the bell rang for class change, meaning kids were in the hallways, according to Herring, who said once halls cleared, the evacuation began by 2:08 p.m.
Students and staff were sent to the Trinity Presbyterian Church parking lot, with city police and fire departments arriving within minutes.
Herring said he made it to the high school by 2:13 p.m. from his offices downtown and safety forces were already on the scene, preparing to search the building.
With administrators along to unlock doors, police officers, firefighters and Herring began a thorough, floor-by-floor search of the main building and by 2:52 p.m., the entire complex had been covered. The field house and vocational complex were also searched by school personnel.
Meanwhile, Herring said, drivers had lined their school buses up at the church lot, ready to pick up students, who were then allowed to go back to their lockers and retrieve coats and other belongings that had been left behind during the evacuation.
The last bus pulled out by 3:10 p.m. with no one injured and nothing found in any of the buildings.
Principal Randy Taylor sent an all-call message out to parents of both high school and middle school students, advising of the situation and assuring them the emergency response had been put into place.
Herring praised the police and fire departments for their prompt and well-manned response and also school staff and the students, saying, "They were very well-behaved. It was very orderly. The building was evacuated in five minutes, and you're talking a thousand people. I hand it to them for doing it well."
Meanwhile, surveillance video of the area leading to the restroom will be reviewed and any student seen entering the room that day before the message was found will be considered a suspect and will be interviewed, Herring emphasized.
"We have to take everything seriously anymore," he said.
As for someone who would make such a threat, Herring said, "I don't know what's in their minds. I don't think they realize the punishment (for such an act). They would be gone for the rest of the year; that's board policy."
Referring to a similar incident at Beaver Local last week, Herring said, "In my opinion, it's like a virus. If it happens one place, it's going to happen some place else. I won't be surprised if it happens some place else now. It's sad. Nothing was accomplished by doing this."
A choir concert scheduled at the school last night was to go on as planned, although Herring said custodial staff was directed to notify administrators immediately if they saw anything that "looked funny."
Herring encouraged any student who knows anything about the incident to come forward and tell school officials.
Earlier in the day, the fire department had responded to the school building for a gas smell, but it was found the odor was coming from a student whose home has a kerosene heater, according to fire officials.