Bomb threat disrupts schools

Published 6:00 am Thursday, December 4, 2003

Copiah County schools were evacuated Thursday morning inresponse to a bomb threat, but children were quickly allowed toreturn to their classrooms.

Copiah County School District Superintendent Rickey Clopton saidthe district was notified of the threat “a little after 8 a.m.” bythe sheriff’s office and immediately ordered the evacuation of thedistrict’s schools as a precaution.

“We didn’t have a clue which school, so we went through thedrill,” he said. “There are two districts in the county, so we’renot even sure it was targeted at us.”

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The county’s two districts are Copiah County School District andHazlehurst School District. The county district is composed ofWesson Attendance Center and the Crystal Springs elementary,middle, and high schools. The city district includes HazlehurstElementary and High School.

The buildings were cleared by local law enforcement agencies ateach school and students were back in the classroom by 9:20 a.m.,Clopton said.

“We checked all the buildings, each room,” said Wesson PoliceChief Steve Carlisle. “Everything was clear.”

Students at Wesson Attendance Center were evacuated to thebaseball field in response to the threat, said Nancy Sullivan,elementary school principal.

“They did not specify which school, so we were all alerted,” shesaid.

Students from kindergarten to 12th grade were evacuated, shesaid, and there were no major problems.

“The children and faculty handled it well,” Sullivan said. “Itwent very smoothly. We were very fortunate that the weather was notsevere. We got them out quickly, so they were not able to grabjackets or anything else.”

The principal said she appreciated that worried parents did notswarm the school, because that only adds further tension to analready tense situation.

“It’s very helpful, because we’re able to get the students backin, reestablish the routine, and get back on track,” she said.

The sheriff’s office has promised they will investigate thecall, Sullivan said.

“We are very hopeful that the sheriff’s office will be able tocapture the caller,” she said. “They had a tape of his voice.”

Carlisle said the man who placed the call appeared agitated.

Two previous bomb threats in Copiah County in recent years haveresulted in arrests, Sullivan said.

A person who called in a bomb threat to Crystal Springs MiddleSchool was sentenced to five years in the custody of theMississippi Department of Corrections.

“There’s a stiff penalty for this sort of silliness,” Sullivansaid. “People think it’s a harmless prank, but it’s taken veryseriously.”

Copiah County Sheriff Frank Ainsworth was not available forcomment.