By David Courtney, Harney County School Dist. No. 3 Superintendent
Last week, we had a two-hour delay that the school district could not talk much about at the time. This situation typifies the position the school sometimes finds itself in, that of not impeding a police investigation by giving up too much information versus letting the public know what is going on.
What happened was that a student wrote a note on the wall of the bathroom at Hines Middle School that said, “The school will blow up at 8:30 tomorrow.” In this day and age, the school needs to take this sort of thing very seriously. In addition, some incendiary material was found on the playground earlier. It turned out that this material has no relation to the threat but that was not known at the time.
On Tuesday evening, after consultation with the police, we decided to call a two-hour delay for Wednesday morning for the safety of the students and also to aid parents in making arrangements for the next day. Eight police officers searched the building that evening and found nothing. The police were still interviewing suspects. Not all of the suspects had been contacted in the evening and no culprit was caught, so the school district remained on a two-hour delay.
Although this is a scary incident, something somewhat comforting resulted from the search. Police, Hines Principal Katie Baltzor and school staff searched every locker in the building and did not find any contraband, not even a cigarette. Not many schools in the state could say that.
After many hours of investigation and interviewing, the person who wrote the note on the bathroom wall was found out and cited. There was no bomb anywhere. This young person is in store for some heavy sanctions from law enforcement, as well as the school district. Writing the words on the wall of the bathroom was a simple act that carries huge repercussions for the author.
What I hope the community takes away from this is that; the school will not call a delay unless it is warranted, that concern for the students safety is foremost, that our schools are pretty darn safe, and that a seemingly simple act can get a person in a lot of trouble.
If, in the future, the school district’s explanation for something seems kind of vague, please remember that we are probably trying to walk that thin line between informing the public and not giving away too much information, which may hinder the investigation.