Bulloch County Sheriff’s investigators arrested a juvenile Tuesday evening on charges of making bomb threats that shut down four Statesboro-area schools.
The 12-year-old girl is charged with two counts each of transmitting a false public alarm, disrupting a public school, reckless conduct and terroristic threats, said Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson.
Statesboro police detectives assisted in locating and identifying the caller, he said.
Further charges are expected, as authorities continue to investigate. The suspect is currently charged with making bomb threat calls to William James Middle School and Langston Chapel Middle School, which were each evacuated after the calls.
A third call, which is still under investigation by Statesboro police and has yet to be traced to the juvenile, was made a short time later to Mill Creek Elementary School. That school was also evacuated, according to Hayley Greene, public relations specialist for Bulloch County schools. Langston Chapel Elementary, which is connected to the middle school, was also evacuated because of its proximity.
Bulloch County Sheriff’s deputies and Statesboro-Bulloch County Crime Suppression Unit officers, assisted by the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit and Motor Carrier Compliance Unit, responded and set up a perimeter around the schools, then made a sweep through the schools to ensure there were no bombs. Georgia State Patrol Post 45 troopers and Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents also assisted, Anderson said
Greene said the person who made the first call sounded like a female and said “I want to post a bomb threat.”
Students of all four schools were immediately evacuated from the buildings, but parents were not immediately notified because the school system’s focus and first priority was to get students and faculty to a safe place, Greene said.
Bulloch County School Superintendent Charles Wilson made the decision to close down the schools for the day between 11:40 and noon, she said. Calls made by an automated system were sent out to parents, but there was a delay due to data (student emergency contact numbers) having to be sent to the main office of the Board of Education, she said.
“Calls could not be made from the (individual) schools because they were evacuated,” she said. And, while plans were being made to reach out to the parents of Langston Chapel and William James students, “the Mill Creek call came in,” which caused further delay.
Anderson said Wilson made the call to close down the schools for the rest of the day to ensure their safety, although no suspicious items or bombs were located.
Greene said releasing information to media outlets assisted the BOE in making sure the message reached everyone as quickly as possible while the automated calling system reached out to over 20,000 student contacts.
While deputies and other officers swept the schools and made sure there were no bombs present, other deputies and law enforcement officers patrolled the remaining schools, being on the alert for any suspicious activity, according to police radio reports.
Students from all four schools who ride buses home were sent home by bus, while arrangements were made for parents to pick up other students at locations near the school campuses, Greene said.
Anderson expressed appreciation to all agencies involved in the incident, adding that he “commends the Board of Education personnel who did so much to assist in the safe evacuation of the schools and in cooperating with the investigation.”
The incident was both costly and stressful to all involved, he said.
“The cost of the juvenile’s actions today was very high for the schools and for the law enforcement agencies which responded. Anyone calling in such threats will be arrested and charged to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.