Wednesday, January 15, 2014

BREAKING: Bomb Threat Called in at Highlands High School

Students gathered in the Highlands Middle School gym this morning as Fort Thomas Police searched for a bomb, which was called in this morning at 7 AM.

The alert on the Fort Thomas Independent School website was live at approximately 8:30 AM. 


A bomb threat has been called into Highlands High School. Police are on scene now sweeping the school for evidence.

The students have been moved to the Highlands Middle School gym until the sweep has been completed.

This is the first bomb threat made at the school since 1998.

This story will be updated.

UPDATE: 8:02 AM. 2 additional canine units called previously may not be needed in search. They will search the school with one police dog.

UPDATE: 8:12 AM. The students have been told the search is almost completed and that they can go back to class in the next 15 minutes.

UPDATE: 8:29 AM: Anonymous tip from a student: It's been communicated to the students that the building is safe and they'll be resuming classes within the next 10 minutes.

UPDATE 8:31 AM: This email was sent to FTM from FTIS: The following message has been sent out to our parents via Twitter, Facebook, Channel 20, email and phone call:

At 7am this morning, Highlands High School received a voice message reporting a bomb threat at the high school. The building was immediately cleared and students were moved to Highlands Middle School.  The police arrived on site within minutes and are conducting a thorough search of the building, which included the K-9 unit.  We anticipate the police will give us an all clear message to re-enter the building by 8:30am.  At that time, all classes will resume their schedule as normal.

UPDATE 9:05 AM: Reports from students that classes are being resumed. 

UPDATE 9:07 AM: From a student at HHS: Gym has been evacuated and classes are resuming. Students are not able to go to the bathrooms or to their locker.

UPDATE 9:08 AM: Many parents are taking to social media to ask why they were not notified earlier. This type of conversation is commonplace:



30 comments:

  1. Why are these children in the middle school when it is barely fifty feet away from the high school? This is absolutely irresponsible! Get those kids across the street to the church or something, out of harms way! I used to go to highlands, and I was in middle school when a bomb threat was called in, and they evacuated us to the high school. Same response, same stupidity. Make sure these kids are safe highlands!

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  3. I agree!! Get kids away from the school! I am very fed up with this school right now. I am going to pick my daughter up now!! Smh

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  4. Students were also told not to call parents that everything would be fine! My daughter is scared to death! Not a happy mom!

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  5. We are also concerned why they were just moved to the middle school gym. That would blow too if there was really a bomb. And why can't they use their lockers or bathrooms? I want to know if those have been cleared. I know parents who tried to pick their kids up and were told they could not remove their high schooler. They would have to report to homeroom to know they were accounted for. I figured it was all a hoax and stayed calm so I didn't upset my child who was texting me. However, we should have been notified immediately AND they should not have been taken to the middle school.

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  6. This is why news interviews start with, "You hear of these things, but you never think it could happen to us." My understanding is that they had one dog. Please tell me how one dog and handler can completely check every area of the high school. Not to mention the middle school, and the surrounding grounds, you know the way it should have happened. I mean that is if you're trying to keep our children, that we put in your charge on a daily basis safe! I just think that a forty-five minutes to an hour could prove to be enough time.

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  7. My daughter is still scared and I am on my way to get her. This entire situation was handled very poorly!! They need to release these students. How can these kids concentrate?

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  8. If the call was called in at 7am the school should have sent a VM asking to keep all kids home until the building was cleared to enter. Period. Kids safety comes first before an absent or tardy. These bomb threats/shootings are happening way to often now and need to be taken seriously!

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  9. Something needs to be done about this. If everything is fine and they want school to go on as normal then why are these kids not allowed to go to the bathroom??

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  10. I'm in shock that both schools were not checked! The schools are connected why wouldn't both schools be evacuated! If the bomb threat was 710am why were my kids allowed to go in at 740? This should never have been handled as a hoax. The way things are in this world today things like this should always be taken seriously. I just don't understand how an entire school is checked in two hours? Every corner of every class and every locker...there's just no way! I want to pick my 3 kids up but they are so convinced by school that they are okay they don't want to mess up their perfect attendance. School officials should have dismissed for today so parents and kids didn't have to be worried sick all day! It's an outrage how this has been handled...from a very worried mom.

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  11. If this was called in at 7 when were police called? When I dropped my child off at 7:40 there were no cops or anyone there

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  12. Hire good people. Let them make decisions. Evaluate decisions made after full information is gathered and decisions explained. If policy needs to be drafted / updated, do so. Until then, all this "chicken little" Monday Morning QBing on social media is meaningless and non-productive.

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  13. No wonder some of the kids were flipping out... what do you expect when you have crazy parents? Has anyone thought that maybe the message wasn't relayed to parents until AFTER they made sure all of the students were evacuated? I know that is the order in which I would have done things. Also keep in mind that before all of the bad things that have happened at schools in recent years, the person responsible didn't "call in a warning." This was clearly a hoax from the beginning. Most likely one of the students who thought it would get them out of school for a day.

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  14. The way this was handled was absurd! I am a mother of three high school students...why if the threat was made at 710 were they allowed in the school at 740?!? How on earth does it make sense to evacuate to the middle school when the schools are connected! All students should have been evacuated from both schools as a precaution...I'm in shock the way that this was handled. Not to mention I was called by my kid and it was on this website before parents were contacted by the school! The way this world is today things like this should be handled in a serious manner at all times! Our kids shouldn't be convinced that its automatically a hoax. I shouldn't have to wonder how an entire school; every corner of every class room and every locker was checked in two hours. It's not possible...school officials should have called school bc now I have kids texting me scared wanting to come home but not wanting to mess up their perfect attendance. It's unreal...they should be excused for the day! Outraged right now...to say the least.

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  15. I think the school gets compensated for attendance by the state which would explain (not excuse) there hesitancy to release students, allow them to come in late or even put a proactive delay in place before the school day even started. It is sad to see a school district that is known for being one of the best to have handled this so poorly.

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  16. The information regarding a bomb threat with the last one being 1998 is incorrect. There was a bomb threat in the spring of 2002 or 2003. Students were evacuated to the football field. Most of the students left after sitting for hours only a few feet away from the school.

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  17. I am very upset with this whole situation. They had the email of the bomb threat at 7:00 am and parents weren't notified by a phone call until 8:27am. However my son sent me a text telling me to look this page up. Then i learned of this so called bomb threat. Why did the school allow us to drop our kids off if they were aware of this threat. And why did they go to the middle school? Were they not concerned about their safety at all? Then we didn't get a message about it being cleared until 9:19 am. And they weren't allow to call parents nor were we allowed to go pick them up. Still they aren't allowed to go to the bathroom or to the lockers. Now these kids are at school worried. Plus us as parents concerned with the safety of our children. Better decisions should have been made. This was wrong on so many levels.

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  18. What I would like to know is if they have added additional security at all the schools today? Did the rest of the schools go into lock down or on extra alert? Parents were barely notified of anything. I think parents would have been less panicked if we felt like there was adequate communication and that the threat was taken seriously. Call an hour delay or ask us to keep our children home until the threat is over. I know you don't want to call off school because that is giving in to the person who called in the the threat, but there is a balance between being too cavalier about it and overreacting.

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  19. NEXT SCHOOL BOARD MEETING!

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  20. Blame parents for kids being scared is pathetic. ..give patents adequate information so we can help our kids understand. To treat it as a hoax is pathetic...I teach my kids to take everything like this serious be aware of surrounding and we have a family plan for a school shooting or something like this and had I known at730 I would have kept my kid with me. This would give school authority adequate time to search and not have to worry about kids or putting them in danger. God help us if we start talking things like this litely we are going to be in some big trouble. Reality HHS isn't immune to this kind of thing so get your heads out of your butt and take it serious these kid's safety was at stake!

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  21. Typical FT. Thomas...they think nothing bad could ever happen in their little bubble and so administrators and police especially handle situations horribly. Times are changing and Ft. Thomas is no different than anywhere else.

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  22. All those parents that are freaking out, causing their kids to freak out...
    What are they going to do tomorrow and the day after?

    The first thing to do in ANY crisis situation is remain calm.
    I'm guessing today there was a great injustice done to our kids. Not by person that called in the hoax, but by everyone over reacting.

    I bet we don't see more than one or two of those complaining, whining parents at the school board meetings!

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  23. Making sure the kids are safe is priority 1. Forgive me if I'm not upset that they waited to call me until AFTER that happened. I don't want an administrator taking even 30 seconds to call me if it means that's 30 seconds longer to evacuate, contact authorities..etc. For those that wanted both schools evacuated, what exactly do you do with 1,500+ students and 100+ teachers in the cold? Let them out of school all day? Great idea. Just be ready to pick your kids up one day a week because there will bomb threats every time there's a project due. As Rita Byrd stated, they have a protocol that is reviewed monthly and initiated their plan of action. One that was created with the authorities that are experts in this. Again, forgive if I'm not upset about the school following the protocol developed by those trained in these exact situations.

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  24. As a prior HHS student who sat through a "bomb threat" on the football field while they checked the school, I can agree that moving students to the middle school, wasn't particularly bright. We all sat in the stands saying we were all now sitting ducks if the school exploded or if there was a shooter on the roof. Which is exactly why most of us got up and left.

    That being said, you have to trust the administrators at the school. If there was truly a bomb or serious threat, their lives at at risk as well. Most disgruntled students make teachers and administrators their targets. I'm sure if they felt there was a major risk they would have insisted on other measures being taken. Parents rushing to the school and demanding their students be released is only going to fuel the anxiety the students might already feel.

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  25. There are many questions that need to be answered that have already been addressed, but the one that confuses me the most is how they allowed ADDITIONAL STUDENTS TO COME IN after the bomb threat was made? Early bird classes were underway already, but the "regular" school day had not yet begun. So they allowed more potential victims into a situation that they did not yet KNOW was safe?

    That's the part that bothers me more than anything.

    Shame on the administrators for counting attendance as more important than life.

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  26. The state of the students seemed to be calm, polite, and overall, very cheerful that they didn't have to go to 1st period. There didn't seem to be very many students that were upset and teachers were going around and reassuring students that everything was fine. Everything finally settled down by 3rd period and the students were fantastic despite this crisis.

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  27. For the most part I agree with the parents being upset that the kids were relocated so close to the high school. I also think the parents getting hysterical just makes it worse for everyone. My student said for the most part all of the students were calm EXCEPT those receiving hysterical calls from their parents. This helps no one. I worried about the close proximity too but I think it was an appropriate call. No matter what place they chose to relocate SOMEONE would take issue with it. That's the way people are here. Bottom line getting your kids hysterical in a situation where it is of utmost importance that they remain calm is not the right answer either.

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  28. While the exchange of thoughts, fears and quite possibly neurotic tendendencies is all well and good, the safety and normalcy of our students' day was preserved because cooler heads prevailed. Police were on the scene in minutes and coordinated evacuation of students and sweep of Highlands High School by bomb detecting canine units. Although a few naysayers have put forth notions that would second guess steps that were taken, Superintendent Kirchner and staff handled the incident in a calm and systematic fashion. One comment was that the Middle School Gym was not far enough, but if the Middle School was a threat, then it was not just what to do with 900 high school students plus staff, but what to do with an additional 700 middle school students plus staff. The Methodist church would not hold 1,600 students plus staff and the temperature precluded having everyone wait outside. Alternatively, dispersing 1,600 students onto the streets, under the circumstances, hardly seems either responsible or safe. For those demanding that school be called off, counsel between administration and police concluded that giving the,(prank) caller exactly what they specifically asked for would have been an open invitation for weekly bomb threats, as disruption of classes was the stated intent of the call. It is easy for us to whip ourselves into a frenzy over this incident, but really, allowing ourselves to go there is indeed letting the terrorists, (prankster) win. If a true terrorist wanted to inflict harm, they could really do that at any time no matter what we do or fail to do and they need not phone it in first. In fact, Oklahoma City, 9/11, etc typically have NOT been called in first. Have we not heard of the risks of going out for pizza or a movie in Israel? Typically there are no phone calls there. While our status as Mayberry may be waning, we are clearly not Tel Aviv either. Get a grip, folks. Would the parents of 1,600 students converging on the scene improve safety or security or would such a frenzy precipitate just the sort of chaos we demand our officials preclude from happening and actually hamper efforts to keep the kids safe? Should we all just home school in our duck and cover bunker because of a phone call? After 9/11/2001, the Northern Kentucky Water District robbed this community of one of its recreational assets, the walking paths at the Tower Park reservoir and scuttled plans to bring a similar feature to the Inverness reservoir, all to pretend to enact absolute security of the water supply. While the West Virginia spill highlights the importance of safe water, fencing does not a terrorist proof water supply make. In light of Sandy Hook, our schools have been fitted with high level entry control measures which now afford much improved security for our students, faculty and staff. By coordinating our response to this incident with police, within minutes, the school day resumed within a couple of hours. Experts in these matters urge that the response project calm, but authoritative resolve to the students and that is exactly what was done. We won today, not the prankster / terrorist.

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  29. Okay Mr. Johnson, you have provided a lot of information that was not provided to parents at the time. If the caller in fact stated that he wanted school called off because of a bomb and it was felt that it was more of a hoax than a real threat, than maybe the school system could have put that in their email and call rather than just saying that there is a bomb threat and all students have been moved. I absolutely have issue with the fact that children were allowed onto school property after the threat was called in. However, I do not believe that parents should have rushed to pick kids up while the crisis was going on. Early bird students should have been evacuated and all incoming students should have been sent home until it was clear. In this day and age, threats need to be taken seriously. I'm glad to hear the teachers and administrators were calm and everything was handled according to plan, but I think the plan needs to be looked at and re-evaluated.

    Did you also know that my 5th grader found out about the bomb threat by seeing an alert come across on her Surface tablet during class? I know that those alerts are there to help keep the district safe, but it scared her.

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  30. As a Board member, it is our job to monitor District operations, (without being in every school every day) and report back to both the full Board and the Administration. That said, we do our best to hire good people, afford them the chance to do their job and work in a consultative capacity when questions, legitimate or unfounded, come to light. As a parent who once was on the outside looking in on District operations, I completely get the level of concern expressed by parents when it comes to the safety of their pride and joy, as my life's work, my raisin d'être, my 16 year old son and nearly 14 year old daughter, were smack in the middle of this one. While it is easy to second guess this and that of how this incident unfolded, suffice it to say that the Administration would be criticized no matter if they immediately ushered the kids to controlled safety, put them across the street in the cold, sent them packing toward home on foot or immediately issued a One Call alert to the parents of all 1,600 students included at HMS / HHS or whatever. Evacuating the building immediately, working directly with Fort Thomas Police and NOT sending kids home for the day was the right choice under the circumstances. Not conveying all information to the public, even parents, as the situation was unfolding and evaluated was, I think, part of a cogent and responsible plan of reaction. All of this said, review of what went wrong and right, as with the handling of our atypical weather this year, is absolutely being done. I would encourage that the takeaway for everyone should be that this threat was taken seriously and that, in consultation with authorities, (Fort Thomas Police) the best course of action was taken. That said, you can bet that policy and procedures are very much under review and that the critique of we the public, founded or unfounded, is very much being heard. This District, because of our parents, their students and the personnel that we hire to operate the schools on our behalf typically do an exemplary job, no matter if we are talking academics, athletics, operations or whatever. Are we perfect? No. Are we at the head of the class among peer districts? Yes. Are we so arrogant that we can not learn from our mistakes? No way. Keep the feedback coming and I promise that effective reconciliation of all perspectives will continue to be a key component of this district's raisin d'être.

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