Hoax tests preparedness at GHS
Authorities arrested a man in Austin late Monday afternoon for threatening to shoot up and bomb random schools across the country. His attack named Gainesville High School as an intended target. He had also threatened to kill police officers as well as President Barack Obama, authorities said.
John Peter Bateman, 26, of Austin, was arrested on charges of making terrorist threats, which carries a sentence of between two and ten years. Austin authorities say he could face additional charges as well. Officials called Bateman’s widespread threats a hoax.
Last Monday morning, around 5:30 a.m., these threats seemed very real. It was a situation no one wants to take a chance with.
The threats were reportedly posted to a police website in Gainesville, Florida. A specific threat to bomb “Gainesville High School” didn’t specify whether the attack was to be directed to Gainesville, Florida, Gainesville, Texas, or Gainesville, Georgia. When Florida authorities alerted our local Gainesville Police Department early Monday, an emergency action plan was immediately activated to seal off the site and get our students to a safe area.
We commend the GISD administration for having a plan ready to go that alerted the numerous agencies involved and brought them forward communicating and working together to keep our kids out of harm’s way. This was the correct action on Monday, no matter how inconvenient it may have seemed for teachers, students and parents.
All students were evacuated to the nearby athletic stadium and local authorities sealed off the location. The campus was not accessible to parents or the community until the issue was resolved.
It was soon brought to the GISD’s attention that the initial threat was from Gainesville, Florida and not Gainesville, Texas. The Gainesville, Texas Police Department received a tip as a pre-cautionary matter and therefore the proper steps were taken in insuring our own student’s safety. The GISD authorities, administrators and our local fire department, EMS and police department should be commended for their alert, expeditious and thorough implementation of the emergency operation plan. The GISD police were also collaborating with the ATF, Lewisville Fire Department and Denton County bomb squad, who were all on standby.
It was over before noon. No bomb. Everyone was safe. The email was declared a hoax and Bateman was arrested in Austin a few hours later.
Similar scenarios played out in Gainesville, Florida and Gainesville, Georgia.
In Florida, the Gainesville Sun reported that the emailed bomb threat that led police to evacuate teachers, staff and roughly 1,900 students also warned of possible shootings at the school on Tuesday. Despite the threat being determined a hoax, more officers were at the schools Tuesday as security was beefed up in all three states.
Similar threats were sent to about 20 institutions around the country. But authorities said there was no indication that Bateman had the means to carry out the threats. Still, law enforcement authorities must handle each and every bomb threat in the exact same way: they take it seriously.
The professionalism that was exhibited in the face of the threat on Monday lets me breathe a sigh of relief that we have an emergency operation plan that has been implemented and tested in the face of what could have turned out to be a crisis situation. Dr. Brashear, his staff, first responders, fire and emergency personnel are to be commended for their teamwork and preparedness.