Female juvenile in custody for making terrorist threat at Jackson High School

Saturday, January 12, 2019
A man escorts a young student away from Hawkins Junior High as parents collect students from the school after a bomb threat made against the nearby high school on social media prompted an evacuation in Jackson Friday, Jan. 11, 2018.
Tyler Graef ~ Southeast Missourian

The Jackson Police Department ordered the evacuation of Jackson High School on Friday after a bomb threat was made on Instagram. School officials later canceled classes throughout the district.

Police searched the high school room by room, but no evidence of a bomb or bomb-mimicking device was found, said Jackson police Lt. Alex Broch.

Jackson police arrested a juvenile girl on suspicion of making a terrorist threat in connection with the incident, according to a statement police released Friday evening. The girl will be referred to juvenile authorities, according to the statement. No other information about the suspect was released.

The Jackson School District sent an emergency message to parents stating the high school was being evacuated because of a threat made on social media.

This is a screen shot of the threat made to Jackson High School on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019.

Less than an hour later, the district announced all schools were being dismissed.

Jackson schools superintendent John Link told reporters at a 10 a.m. news conference school officials were taking no chances with student safety.

“We take all threats seriously,” Link said. “Student safety is our No. 1 priority.”

Link added, “We will error on the side of safety every time.”

He said the school district and the police department have a great partnership when it comes to school safety.

Link said he received a text message at 7:20 a.m. from a grandparent whose granddaughter had sent her an Instagram image she had seen that threatened to “blow up the high school.”

A screen shot of an Instagram post from “oldacct472819374919” stated, “I’m going to blow up Jackson High School Today. Y’all better be ready at 7:50 because I’m coming in right when that bell rings.”

The superintendent said he arrived at the high school at 7:30 a.m. All the school resource officers were there and plans were made to evacuate the students.

Students were bused to the junior high school system gymnasium to be reunited with their parents.

“Our students were tremendous,” Link said. “When we started evacuating ... they just did what they were asked to do,” he said.

By 7:50 a.m., a half hour after Link saw the Instagram threat, all the students and staff had exited the high school.

Broch said at 10 a.m. the search had not turned up any suspicious items. By midday, the police department reported on its Facebook page a thorough search of the high school campus “did not find anything of a suspicious nature.”

A photographer at the scene of the evacuation described long lines of vehicles at the junior high. Students were seen leaving with parents. State troopers and Jackson police officers were helping direct traffic.

Link said school officials subsequently decided to cancel classes at all the district’s schools.

“Thankfully, the weather kind of helped us out,” he said, explaining officials had previously notified parents of a possible earlier release because of an impending winter storm.

“If we were going to dismiss one building, we were going to dismiss them all,” Link said.

Officials notified parents about the bomb threat because “communication is key to a situation like that,” Link said, adding “parents are all scared” when they hear of such threats.

Link said Jackson schools went through an active-shooter drill last week.

“We are prepared for a situation like this. We just never know when they are going to happen,” he said.

Besides Jackson police, officers with the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol responded to the scene.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was assisting with the investigation, police said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

(573) 388-3641

bmiller@semissourian.com

(573) 388-3625

tgraef@semissourian.com

(573) 388-3627

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