On Monday, January 11 and Tuesday, January 12, Milford School District received bomb threats for two schools in the district. On Monday, threats were made regarding a bomb at Lulu M. Ross Elementary School and, on Tuesday, January 12, a threat was called in for Milford High School. Ross was evacuated on Monday, but students returned to school once the building was cleared. Both the high school and Milford Central Academy were evacuated due to the close proximity of the two schools and students were dismissed for the afternoon.
“Once we received the notification, we immediately begin the process of evacuating the building and contact the necessary resources to secure the perimeter of the property,” said School Resource Officer Rob Masten of the Milford Police Department. “The Milford School District also has a thorough emergency plan that is also put into action. We also immediately reach out to the agencies in the area that have K-9 units available that are trained to assist in these types of situations. That includes personnel at Dover Air Force Base.” K-9 patrols investigated the two buildings and found no explosive devices on either day.
Dr. Phyllis Kohel, Superintendent of Milford School District, said that every school follows an Emergency Procedure Guide developed in conjunction with the State of Delaware Emergency Planning Department, the Criminal Justice Council, the United States Department of Justice, the Bureau of Justice and the Milford Police Department.
“Most calls come into the secretaries who document as much information from the call as possible,” Dr. Kohel said. “They then notify the principal or designee who orders the evacuation and notifies the police as well as my office. Then, an Alert Now is issued to parents with as much information as we have at the time. The police take care of coordinating blocking exits to the building, calling for bomb dogs, helping to escort children who may be evacuated to different buildings, etc.” Dr. Kohel said that the same procedures were followed on both days that the district received bomb threats.
Sgt. Masten says that the safety of the students are the priority for both the Milford Police Department and the district. He said it is definitely a team effort when these incidents occur. He says that the district has emergency plans in place with a variety of steps designed to ensure the safety of all children. Milford Police Department officers assist the district in many ways to ensure that plans are carried out. Sgt. Masten said that ensuring a smooth dismissal was primarily the responsibility of officers in the department.
“I think it is difficult to imagine the amount of time and effort that has to go into that type of emergency,” Dr. Kohel said when asked about comments from parents that notification was delayed regarding the threat. “The security of our students is our absolute first priority. We have worked with many of our community members to locate buildings as emergency evacuation receiving spots so that we can keep our children safe, warm and accounted for. It was only after that on Monday that we sent out an Alert Now on Monday. All entrances to Ross were blocked, so we had to wait until we could coordinate entry for parents prior to sending out that information. However, through our debriefing we have made arrangements to have information shared through Facebook and Twitter as soon as we can following a potential threat. We may not be able to give them all of the specifics right away, but we’ll certainly try to do what we can.”
Dr. Kohel assured parents that, regardless of the threat, the district has the safety of the students as their first concern. She said that she hoped parents had faith and trust in the staff to protect and guide students in an emergency, but understands that such emergencies are emotional for everyone, including parents. She reminded parents that, even in an emergency, students can only be released to parents who have valid photo identification and that the person picking up the student must be listed on the emergency information card on file with the district. Regular release procedures such as signing the student out are also in effect, Dr. Kohel said, as the safety of the children are a first priority at all times.
Research indicates that, although there have been no actual bombs found after the majority of bomb threats, whether at schools or other buildings, there have been occasions when bombs have been discovered after a called-in threat in other areas of the country. Therefore, schools and police must proceed as if there is a bomb in the building and follow protocol established in order to keep children safe.
“Parents can assist us in explaining that not every alert that occurs in schools means that there is a direct threat to their safety,” Dr. Kohel said. “We are required by law to have monthly fire drills and the Milord Police Department, thanks to our SRO’s, helps us set up and implement active shooter drills. Overall, the procedures for each drill are similar with the main concern to notify police and get students to safety.”
According to Sgt. Masten, the investigation into the bomb threats is ongoing and, although it is in the early stages, there has been progress. “It is a joint investigation with many agencies being involved and sharing information,” Sgt. Masten said. “The investigation is still too early to know why so many threats were called in over such a widespread area.” Sgt. Masten said that the calls, which were described as robocalls, were being investigated and law enforcement felt they would lead them to the source.