WAPAKONETA — A sixth-grade Wapakoneta City Schools student confessed to writing a note on a school desk which led to the evacuation Thursday of Wapakoneta Middle School.
Wapakoneta Police Chief Russ Hunlock said through an officer’s investigation a student of interest was identified and interviewed. During the interview, an 11-year-old girl confessed to leaving the note.
School officials have confirmed the girl did not have access to a bomb or materials to make one. The case has been forwarded to prosecutors with the Auglaize County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
“The student has been banned from school property until disciplinary proceedings are concluded,” Hunlock said in a news release.
The bomb threat was reported by a teacher, who found it written on a desk that had been out in the hallway of a wing of the school, Hunlock told the newspaper.
Before the confession, school administrators and police officers vowed to pursue the toughest charges they could.
Within three hours of being evacuated for the bomb threat, the school’s approximate 700 students were returned to the building after it was cleared at 11:30 a.m. by explosive detecting dogs and the Allen County Regional Bomb Squad.
“Nothing was found out of the ordinary or out of place,” Hunlock said.
School personnel helped evacuate the building and then officers did a final sweep before setting up and securing a perimeter outside to keep everyone away from the building before it could be checked by the bomb squad.
“Our main focus before the bomb squad arrived was getting everyone out of the building,” Hunlock said.
The police chief said the desk the threat was written on did not belong to a particular student and was accessible to many students in the school.
Officers reviewed video surveillance to try and determine who may have been around the desk before the threat was made, and it was useful in determining a suspect, Wapakoneta Superintendent Keith Horner confirmed this morning.
Before the middle school student confessed, Horner said he anticipated catching whoever was involved in making the threat and dealing with it “as severely as we can.”
“This is not a small issue,” Horner said. “It is serious and goes against what we are trying to do here. In essence, we lost a day of educating students.”
He said in addition to law enforcement proceeding with filing charges on the student, she also is expected to go through a disciplinary hearing with the school.
Horner credited all those involved — students, teachers, parents, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, administrators, law enforcement and firefighters — for their cooperation in helping the evacuation go smoothly.
“They were all tremendous,” Horner said. “Everyone pitched in. Honestly, looking back, it was a great team effort. Everyone jumped in right away to manage the situation.”
Horner said parents were notified by the district’s one-call system within an hour of the bomb threat and advised that they could pick their children up at the Wapakoneta Performing Arts Center (PAC), where they were taken by bus until the middle school was cleared. Approximately half of the middle school’s fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-grade students were picked up by parents.
For the most part, students handled the evacuation without a lot of emotion, but Horner said he did see a couple of students who were visibly upset. The district’s guidance department is expected to continue monitoring students’ reactions to the threat.
In reviewing the incident later, Horner anticipated that there may be some areas they could improve upon, but he said that is typical when they look back after an event like this and see what they can do better.
Thursday’s evacuation of Wapakoneta Middle School was one of only a few the district has had to do.
Horner said they typically learn of possible threats prior to the school day, so they do not interfere with classes.
Almost immediately after receiving word of the bomb threat and conferring with police, the middle school was evacuated Thursday.
Local law enforcement and Wapakoneta firefighters secured the building, all entrances to the school, and blocked both ends of Harrison Street.
“We were being very cautious,” Horner said of the quick decision. “We have to take this seriously every time it happens. We will do the exact same thing every time.”