Bomb threats investigatedSchool evacuated again this morning
WAYLAND — As he parked on the side of the road across the street from the roadblock that had been set up to create a perimeter around WACO High School Tuesday morning, Dwayne Leffler’s thoughts turned to the safety of his 17-year-old daughter Desiree.
Earlier Tuesday morning Leffler’s neighbor told him that her son had texted that there had been a bomb threat at the school and the students were being moved out to the football field. He immediately got into his car to check on Desiree. As he waited for more information, Leffler spoke with several other parents who had tried to get through the perimeter to the school, but were politely asked to stand well back. Little information was given other than the students had been evacuated and were safe.
“I’m just wondering if anything is happening,” he said. “Is it just a hoax or what?”
Shortly afterward, the school was declared safe and students were allowed to return to class. About 30 members of various surrounding emergency responder groups left the building and returned to their responding vehicles parked in front of the school. Henry County Emergency Management Coordinator Walt Jackson said that law enforcement from Henry and Washington counties, Henry County Ambulance Service, and Wayland police and fire had responded to address a “safety concern” that the district had. He confirmed it was a bomb threat.
Again this morning, students were evacuated for about 45 minutes after another bomb threat was discovered. After a search, the campus was again determined to be safe.
Jackson declined further information on the threat itself, saying that it was part of an ongoing investigation. He said any threat has to be considered credible until it is found not to be credible. He said that the district would rather err on the side of caution than not react and have something happen.
After crews arrived, teachers were asked to come inside as their rooms were searched. Jackson said each room was thoroughly searched.
He said that several law enforcement groups were informed of the threat, including the Department of Homeland Security, stationed in Des Moines. The Iowa State Fire Marshal’s office was also involved. He said someone caught making a bomb threat could face a magnitude of charges, including terrorism. He said in a situation like that, a juvenile could be tried as an adult.
“The bombings in Boston are fresh in everyone’s minds,” he said. “Something like this could be as bad. The threat of terrorism could be just as bad as terrorism itself.”
About a month ago, Jackson said, his office, the WACO School District, the Wayland police Department, Wayland and Olds fire departments, and the Henry County Sheriff’s Office had worked on contingencies for emergencies. He said evacuation plans were in place for a variety of emergencies, including bomb threats.
“The kids’ safety is No. 1,” Jackson said. “We will do this all day long and twice on Sunday to make sure the kids are safe, but it did waste a lot of man hours. You are talking about firefighters having to get off work to come in and do their job. Law enforcement had to come from the surrounding agencies. Phone calls were made to Des Moines. A lot of man hours and money were spent here needlessly.”