Effingham Daily News
A bomb scare at Newton Community High School and Jasper County Junior High School led to an evacuation of students and faculty.
At approximately 12:10 p.m. Monday, school officials received a bomb threat from an individual who claimed that a bomb in the school was set to blow up at 2 p.m. Newton Police Department and Jasper County Sheriff’s department both reported to the scene and began executed protocols for the evacuation of students and school staff to St. Thomas Parrish Center via school bus.
Parents were made aware of the threat by an automated message from the school at around 1:30 p.m. saying that students had been evacuated and should not be picked up by their parents at the time.
The Newton Fire Department and EMS services also were on stand by to potentially assist in the evacuation and student safety.
A bomb sniffing dog from the Secretary of State’s office was brought in at around 3 p.m. to search the school, but no threats were found.
Newton Police Chief Mike Swick said injuries were avoided and the evacuation was a success because of the cooperation among teachers, parents and law enforcement officials.
“Once again, the cooperation from parents and the community let us come in and take control of the incident,” he said. “Everyone was extremely cooperative and helpful. It’s more than nice.”
NCHS also had a bomb scare in the 2011-2012 school year after someone said that all students should leave the building for their own safety. He was later apprehended.
Newton Mayor Tom Ballard said he appreciated the police department’s treatment of the most recent threat as well as the protocol that led to the evacuation of students.
“Anytime something like this happens, it’s a concern,” he said. “You like to think it’s just a threat, but you can’t gamble with something like this. You have to treat it like it is real.”
Jasper County Sheriff Ed Francis said the cooperation between law enforcement, the schools and the fire department allowed the evacuation and subsequent investigation to go as smoothly as possible.
“It was quite the coordinating effort,” he said. “It can be hard to get (students) on the busses and get them out of here at the right time.”
At just after 4 p.m., students were allowed back to the high school to move their vehicles out of the parking lot. They were not allowed into the building, as searches were still being conducted at the time.
The Sheriff’s department and police are continuing to investigate and are interviewing potential witnesses.