NEWBERRY — Newberry High School received a bomb threat to its main office at 10:54 a.m. Monday. The threat was very short and generic, but was taken seriously to insure the safety of the students and faculty of the school.
There was an immediate response from all aspects of public safety. The Newberry Police Department, Newberry County Sheriff’s Office, Newberry Fire Department all responded to the scene. Newberry County School District Superintendent Bennie Bennett and his staff also responded to the school.
The students were evacuated to another school campus for their safety. They were provided lunches at the evacuation site and were supervised by the Newberry High School staff that accompanied the students to that location. The food services section for the School District of Newberry County worked to quickly prepare pizzas and have milk delivered to the campus so that everyone was fed.
“I have had so many compliments on the cooperation and behavior of the students and the staff during this ordeal,” said Bennett. “I am very proud of our students, teachers, and staff for their actions during this incident. We have practiced our evacuation plans on a regular basis and today our students and faculty proved that with their cooperation we can navigate difficult situations.”
Meanwhile, bomb sniffing dogs from the State Law Enforcement Division, Columbia Police Department and Lexington County Sheriff’s Office came to the high school and made a thorough search of the campus. After the campus was thoroughly searched and the all clear was given the students were returned to the campus of Newberry High School.
“This reaction to this incident from all aspects of public safety could not have gone better,” said Sheriff Lee Foster. “Everyone responded quickly and because we already had a great plan in place, we were able to work together to quickly and safely get the students and staff to a safe location.”
The students were returned to the campus where all students were again accounted for and then students completed their day except for those who were released to their parents.
The investigation into the incident is ongoing,” said Newberry Police Chief Jackie Swindler. “It is important that we apprehend and prosecute anyone who would commit such a crime. An incredible amount of manpower and resources were expended today and we must make the person who committed this crime accountable for their actions.”
All three men - Swindler, Foster and Bennett - said that they received questions concerning why the students were not released to the parents faster.
“It is a simple matter of accountability and responsibility,” said Bennett. “When we evacuated the students to the other campus, we took a head count and made sure everyone was safe and accounted for. When we moved back to Newberry High School, we again did a head count to make sure everyone was still safe and accounted for. Attempting a release during such a difficult situation would create chaos. We would run the strong possibility of not being able to account for a child or properly protect them because of the changing environment. I along with my entire staff and law enforcement do not want to risk a child being left behind or unaccounted for by such a risky move. I want the parents to know that their children are safe with us at all times, and at the first safe, reasonable moment we will get them back into their custody. We all want what is best for our children and we all understand a parent’s love and concern for their child, but implore you to work with us in situations like this knowing that we are going to do everything in our power to return children to their parents as soon as it is safely and reasonably possible.”
“Today’s incident was affirmation of the years of planning and preparation for such an incident,” said Foster. “We had the partnerships and the plans in place and everyone worked together to work our way through an incredibly difficult situation. I join Mr. Bennett in praising the students and the faculty on their outstanding cooperation, attitude, and behavior in trying circumstances. Newberry County is nationally recognized for its critical incident plans for its school and today we proved the plans work when we all work together.”
Swindler said that a substantial reward is being offered for information leading to the identification and arrest of the person responsible for this crime.
If you have any information you may contact the Newberry Police Department at 321-1010 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.