Northampton School Committee holds emergency meeting following bomb threat

Northampton School Committee holds emergency meeting following bomb threat
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 11:57 PM EDT
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NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) -After a bomb threat in Northampton last week, the school committee’s held a special meeting Thursday night to discuss the incident and safety protocols.

No one from the community spoke out about the incident during public comment. But, the superintendent did address shortcomings and concerns school committee members had with how things were handled.

On Thursday, the Northampton School Committee held a special meeting in which Interim Superintendent Public Schools Jannell Pearson-Campbell presented information on a bomb threat at the high school on Sept. 13.

She said it all started around 2 p.m. when district officials were notified of a potential threat based on statements made in a group text.

“911 was called. The district existing policies require a 911 call to be placed whenever information is obtained that is believed to be a possible bomb threat so the situation can be assessed and appropriate plan of action can be put into place,” said Pearson-Campbell.

She said the Northampton Police and Fire departments as well as the state bomb squad provided support and the district consulted the school law council to make sure they took appropriate action. Prior to the meeting, school committee members told Western Mass News there were concerns over the time it took to notify parents. Pearson-Campbell said they tried to balance the public’s right to know and student privacy rights and district security needs.

“Please understand that due to privacy, we were only able to provide limited information, however the district leadership took steps to communicate available and appropriate information to the community,” explained Pearson-Campbell.

There was some confusion when taking action. Most schools issued stays in place, while JFK Middle School went into a lockdown.

“They made the decision to do a lockdown because at that time, we didn’t know where the message was coming from and so that was done out of precaution. The reason why the other schools were on either stay in place or dismal depends on what time they received the phone call because our dismal for elementary school is around that time,” Pearson-Campbell said.

Laying out the next steps, Pearson-Campbell said the district will be reviewing its bomb threat policy, safety plan, and emergency communication plan to make sure they’re up to date.

“The police department, school attorney, and a special education attorney will be involved in that review process. For our safety plan, we created a crisis team that will be reviewing the ongoing safety plans for district-wide bomb threats. The police department will also provide training to our schools,” said Pearson-Campbell.

She said the crisis team will also create a district-wide communication to support evacuation and will collaborate with the police and fire departments on this. Teachers will take attendance and stay with students until they are released to their buses or caregivers.

Pearson-Campbell did acknowledge that at least 70 new employees were hired this year, so the district wants to ensure everyone is trained and knows their role in these types of emergencies.