New way to assess school bomb threats under discussion

By LISA CAPOBIANCO
STAFF WRITER
In response to the series of bomb threats in Bristol Public Schools this past year, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ellen Solek recently met with local law enforcement officials to discuss adding a new protocol.
Solek said the purpose of the meeting was to work on an additional protocol that could help curtail the series of bomb threats that have continuously occurred in the district recently. This protocol would directly involve local police officers conducting an “immediate level of threat” every time a message is found in a school.
For instance, if a threatening message is discovered on the bathroom wall, the school will contact police immediately to assess the level of that threat. Solek said the new protocol would allow police to become more directly involved on the front-end of a bomb threat situation. Currently, if schools find a threatening written message, they will first exercise the standard protocol before calling the police department.
Bristol Police Chief Tom Grimaldi said the purpose of the new protocol is to continue responding to the threats, but to modify that response. He said the goal is to examine the whole picture when a threatening message gets reported at school—to examine the “credibility” of the threat.
“We’re not taking [these threats] any less seriously,” said Grimaldi, adding law threat assessments are a common tool in law enforcement. “We’re always looking for ways to improve our response.”
Earlier this month, a bomb threat was found at South End School. A note that read “Boom in School” was found in the fourth grade girl’s bathroom at the school, and all students and staff were evacuated for 30 minutes after a call was made to police.
The incident follows a series of other bomb threats that took place in Bristol schools this past June. In June, two juvenile arrests were made in connection with threats at Edgewood School and Greene-Hills School, as well as Stafford School, Bristol Central High School, and Chippens Hill School.
“As a superintendent, I spoke with a lot of students who said they’re tired of this,” said Solek.
Grimaldi hopes by conducting threat assessments in the district, it will ultimately decrease or put an end to the series of bomb threats.
“It becomes tiresome for most of the students,” said Grimaldi, adding the majority of students seem to agree the situation is a waste of time and resources while being a disruption to the classroom.
Grimaldi said his department found the series of bomb threats that occurred in the district did not exhibit a “high risk” or credibility, as many of them were found to be “copycat” incidents.
“Most of these bomb threats are not very credible,” said Grimaldi.
Solek said the district has done a successful job of continuing to work with the Bristol Police Department on getting the message out to students about the consequences of threatening messages.
Solek said students as young as elementary school-aged have absorbed the message, “If you see something, say something.”
“It starts in the early grades,” said Solek, adding the district also has been active in reaching out to parents and guardians about school safety.
Grimaldi said his department has worked well with school officials to communicate with students. He noted how the younger students have not only learned about the consequences of a threatening message but they have also learned about how the incident affects the rest of the city. When not deemed credible or serious, responding to a school bomb threat can prevent the police department from providing available resources in the event of a legitimate report of an incident elsewhere, said Grimaldi.
“It is much more than the consequences,” said Grimaldi, adding how his department has worked with school officials to communicate with parents too. “The youngsters have been very engaged.”
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.