Suspicious message prompts lockdown at Hickman

Thursday, August 30, 2007 | 7:54 p.m. CDT; updated 1:22 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — A message treated as a bomb threat at Hickman High School on Thursday morning led to a temporary lockdown at the school. No bomb was found, and no students were injured.

About 11 a.m., a student found the message typed on a library computer, Assistant Superintendent Lynn Barnett said. The message, typed in the user log-in space, read, “I hate school enough to blow it up today. 12.15,” Barnett said. The student immediately alerted staff.

As a precautionary measure, the school was placed on a red-level alert at 12:05 p.m., Hickman Principal Mike Jeffers said. Students had to remain in classrooms while police conducted sweeps of the school.

The lockdown was lifted after about 20 minutes, Jeffers said.

“I know it’s unsettling, but we have to be safe and follow procedure,” Jeffers said. “A threat is a threat.”

Hickman school administrators are investigating the case and have at least one suspect. Jeffers said any disciplinary action would follow the school’s investigation.

Mark Brotemarkle, the school resource officer for Hickman, said police will investigate if a suspect or suspects are identified or if more concrete information is discovered, largely because of the disruption caused to classes.

“Calling it a bomb threat gives it even more credit than it deserves,” Brotemarkle said.

Columbia police Sgt. Eric White said police didn’t think the threat was credible.

Students reacted in a variety of ways during the lockdown.

“We had a few kids panicking,” Jeffers said. Word spread and some people got antsy, he said.

Brotemarkle described the threat as “one of the weaker ones we’ve had.” But he said that text messaging among students might have inflated fears.

“A lot of students text messaged parents, and it may have caused people to be more concerned than was necessary,” Brotemarkle said.

Ninth-grader Joseph Liu said he was in French class when the school was locked down. “I was not scared,” Liu said. “I don’t really think that someone would be crazy enough to set up a bomb.”

After the lockdown, classes continued and school let out at the normal release time. Brotemarkle said a small fraction of the student body left early in response to the threat. Hickman has about 2,200 students, he said.

Jeffers does not think there is any immediate danger.

“I think we’re at a point in our investigation in which we can substantiate it’s not a threat,” Jeffers said.

The last time the school was locked down was in 2005, he said.

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