A 13-year-old New York Mills student is the suspect in a phoned-in bomb scare that shut down Perham High School for two hours May 13.
Students were evacuated Tuesday morning, after a bomb threat was received at the high school offices.
Perham Police Chief Brian Nelson was interviewing the suspect by about 9:30 a.m. At about 10 a.m., after school staff and law enforcement personnel had conducted a physical sweep of the building, school was back in session.
"The kid involved was confronted, and he admitted it," said Nelson.
"We have to take threats seriously," said Nelson. "We have to be safe, rather than sorry...even though our gut was telling us that the bomb threat was probably a hoax."
The threat was made aboard a New York Mills school bus. As Nelson explained it, the male student had borrowed a cell phone from a classmate, and started making calls--one of them to the Perham school, because it happened to be in the "contacts" list on the cell phone.
"He was being silly, making several calls...He called the school, said there is a bomb outside of the school and hung up," said Nelson.
Evidently, it was not premeditated at all, said Nelson. In fact, the classmate told him that "he shouldn't have done it and that he could get in trouble," said Nelson. Another student overheard the exchange, and reported it to New York Mills school staff. New York Mills Principal Matt Aker then reported it to Perham law enforcement and school officials.
"The kid understands the magnitude of what he did now," said Nelson.
The call came in at 7:50 a.m., before many of the students had arrived. Staff were stationed at each entrance, and directed arriving students to the neighboring Perham Area Community Center.
EMS personnel, police, school staff, along with an Interquest canine (dog) searched the building and grounds. Nothing was found.
Following the school's emergency plan, the students were marched to the community center--with about 400 students packed into the center's gym.
"They were remarkably civil and well-behaved, considering how many there were in one space," commented PACC manager Kevin Nelson.
School staff rolled in carts with baked goods and breakfast items for the students.
The school and the PACC collaborated to network computers, so class rosters could be printed out and attendance taken. The PACC also set up a PA system, so Principal John Rutten could make announcements during the two hours.
Meanwhile, ACS was assisting law enforcement in tracing phone calls.
Because one of the phone numbers turned up as suspicious, an unfortunate Perham High School student was hauled into a PACC back room--where Chief Nelson unmercifully interrogated the poor lad. Not long after the innocent youth was grilled, authorities received information about the suspect at the New York Mills school.
As for the suspect, Chief Nelson is in contact with the county attorney regarding the juvenile.
"I'm in a fact-finding mode," said Nelson. "We have to find a balance. It was a kid making a really bad decision. On the other hand, it was a very serious incident. There has to be consequences...but we're not sure where to go with it at this point."
Henning faced bomb threat last week
A comment on a bathroom wall led Henning school officials to close down the school on Friday morning, May 9.
The comment allegedly mentioned a specific time that a bomb was to go off at the school. A student discovered the threat at the end of the school day on Thursday, prompting the school to activate an "Emergency Management Plan".
Students were sent to designated churches in the community on Friday morning, awaiting approval to return to the school building. After a two-hour search conducted by the Henning Police Department, Otter Tail County Deputies, fire and ambulance personnel, city employees, and school personnel; the school was deemed safe for students.
By 11 a.m. on Friday, students were back in the school building. No suspicious materials were discovered during the sweep of the school.