by Susan Mikula Campbell
The Niagara County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigation Bureau is working on tracing the 7:55 a.m. 911 call on Monday reporting bombs at Niagara-Wheatfield and Niagara Falls high schools.
When the individual is found, he will likely be facing criminal charges. "The Sheriff's Office is taking this very seriously," a spokesman said.
The Sheriff's Office immediately dispatched deputies, K-9 units and other police agencies to both schools. The school districts decide whether to shelter in place or evacuate, the spokesman said. Niagara Falls decided to keep its students in the building while the search was conducted. N-W decided to bus students from both the high school and the adjacent Edward Town Middle School to the nearby Sanborn firehall on Buffalo Street.
Niagara County Sheriff's Deputies along with State Police, Lewiston Police and the NFTA Police and their K-9 units conducted the search at N-W. Nothing was found, and school officials began returning students to their classrooms at 11:20 a.m.
N-W Superintendent Dr. Lynn Fusco, who was at the schools while they were being searched, praised the work of the police agencies.
"There were officers all over," she said, noting they were very timely and very supportive, working with the staff. "They were very thorough and swept the entire complex."
She also thanked the Sanborn Volunteer Fire Co. for opening its doors to accommodate the students.
"It really is a testament to how a community comes together," she said.
Once students were bused back to their schools from the firehall, they had lunch and got on with their day. Some were picked up and taken home by their parents or guardians.
Although a few people were upset, most were very patient and cooperative, Fusco said, adding that some actually thanked the people who were checking the IDs of people picking up their children early.
"At the end of the day, that's the most important thing, that the kids are safe," Fusco said.
One parent said her daughter, a ninth-grader, became panicked when students were loaded on the bus, not knowing if it was a fire drill or a real issue. Borrowing a friend's cell phone she contacted her mother and begged, "Come and get me."
Arriving at the firehall with her elementary-age daughter in tow (elementary buses were delayed that morning), she was told she would have to pick her older daughter up at the high school.
"At least Niagara-Wheatfield got those children out," she said, saying that she noticed most of the students had coats in the frigid weather.
Once at the high school, she said, she found some parents "flipping out and wondering were their child was" and others yelling at officials demanding to know who had done this and why.
With international news of school shootings and terrorism causing added concern, both parents and students need to be kept better informed when incidents like this happen, she said.
"If it's not a bomb threat, it's a bullying issue," she said, noting that some things have changed since she was in school, largely due to technology such as cell phones. "I don't remember this 21 years ago."