Thursday, December 12, 2013
BY DAVID ROBINSON Staff Writer
FARMINGTON -- A series of recent bomb threats at Mt. Blue High School have disrupted classes and wasted the town's money and investigators are closing in on the students behind the pranks, a school official said.
Police and school officials are following leads into the three threats made since last month, which have triggered mandatory emergency measures that spend extra town money, Superintendent Michael Cormier said Tuesday.
They expect to identify and punish the students with ties to the threats soon, taking steps to hopefully end the pranks that have frustrated students, teachers and public safety officials alike, he said.
"We'll take the full action against them and turn them over to the police for possible prosecution," Cormier said.
Making a bomb threat is a felony that can be punished by up to five years in prison along with fines, depending on the circumstances of the crime.
After the latest threat Friday morning, the 737 students at the high school had to be evacuated and bused to alternate sites for the remainder of the school day. Extra money is spent to pay for the busing and the other safety measures taken that day, Cormier said.
Local police and fire departments, for example, have to respond to assist with the emergency evacuation. And a police dog trained to locate bombs was driven from Augusta to search the building before it was cleared to reopen, he said.
Many of the same steps were taken after the first two threats, which happened within a week of each other after a written bomb threat was discovered in a high school bathroom on Nov. 14.
School officials are calculating the emergency response cost as part of the investigation, Cormier said. He was unable to give an estimate.
The school board unanimously voted last week to expel a student at the high school for hindering the investigation into the first two bomb threats. The board's vote was based based on the investigation as well as the student's history of repeated suspensions, according to the minutes of the board meeting.
Cormier could not elaborate on the expulsion because of privacy laws, he said. Farmington police did not return a request Tuesday for comment about the investigation.
The threats have also disrupted a $60 million renovation project at the high school campus, which could keep construction workers from meeting deadlines that have already been pushed back because of unrelated delays, Cormier said.
Construction workers were evacuated Friday and returned to work after police cleared the campus to reopen Saturday. It's unclear what effect the delay could have on the many deadlines for the project, which had been set to finish by 2013, Cormier said.
The school year may also have to be extended if the threats continue, something that has school officials worried since there are already limited snow days left for winter.
The more than 2,300 students in the school district already face an extended school year. The construction delays tied to the renovation project pushed back the first day of classes this year, adding an extra three days to the end of the school year.
Threats made over the years against school buildings in the district have not required the same reaction, but students asked administrators to implement the alternate-site policy a decade ago, Cormier said.
Students get bused to other school buildings to attend classes after a threat, with certain circumstances requiring an early dismissal.
"We discovered eight years ago that sending students home only causes more threats," he said.
Students who want to learn always say they want to do whatever they can to discourage a few classmates who don't care about their education, Cormier said.
"The goal is to avoid future threats...we always try to deal with it and move on," he said.
David Robinson -- 861-9287