Still searching for the caller
Flandreau Schools receive two Bomb Threats, August 22
The investigation into who phoned in two separate bomb threats to Flandreau Public Schools on the second day of school is ongoing. If a suspect is found, state and federal charges most likely will be filed.
Students this past Tuesday at 9:10 a.m. and again in the afternoon were ushered quickly out of the school after two separate calls came in of a bomb threat. Students, first responders said, were evacuated within seven minutes on the first call that morning. The evacuation went faster with the second call early that afternoon.
“That’s probably as good as we’re going to be able to get it,” said Sheriff Wellman, in a briefing with parents on Wednesday night. Law enforcement expressed relief, along with everyone else, that the threats turned out to be just that, a threat versus a reality.
But a new reality at that.
During the meeting, Wellman, along with School Resource Officer Gabriel Frias, school officials and others, talked with parents about the series of events that day, their assessment of the situation, what went right, what didn’t go as well as it could have, and what they’ve learned from it all so that in the event there is ever another similar situation, everyone does better.
Drills for such an event, or any other terrorism-related threat, are near the top of the list.
It’s not an “if” it will happen again, nearly everyone agreed. It’s “when”.
“It sucks that we live in a world like that,” said Wellman.
“But we realize that we have to make it so the kids are just apt to know that — we go out this door, we’re going to hang a left, the bus is going to come, we’re going to go to a place, our parents will come pick us up and that’s just what we do. Basically, unfortunately, we’re going to have to do enough drills that for the staff and kids it becomes second nature.”
Other things Wellman, Frias, school officials and others said they learned from the situation, as they spoke with and heard the concerns of parents:
Resources such as the intercom system not working throughout the entirety of the school need to be addressed. Teachers are requesting more staff training for bomb threat scares or any other related type of event. Where and how kids might meet up with parents and how to better communicate with families during a crisis was also a critical point of discussion.
“I can imagine families were so stressed and scared when you showed up,” said Counselor Kari Lena-Helling.
“I want you to know that the kids were calm and safe. The only time it seemed to escalate was when we had escalated adults start coming onto the scene — we had adults show up yelling and screaming and acting like they were going to start fighting some of our teachers as they were trying to keep our kids safe. It’s natural to be scared and start crying but if you can take a moment to take a deep breath, that’s one of the most helpful things you can do for your kids.”
Teachers, other staff, and local police also discussed during a debrief with staff the following day how busy their phones were with text messages from parents throughout the chaos of the day. Officer Matt Joachims asked parents to be mindful that during any sort of crisis, teachers and first responders are going to be busy and asked parents not to get upset if their messages might go unanswered.
As for who might have called in the threats, Sheriff Wellman said that the two calls came in from the same California number and confirmed as well that both calls were placed from a location in that state.
“The phone number used in both threats was the same. It is an out of state number and was also pinged out of state in the state that it is from based on the area code,” said Wellman.
Law enforcement and first responders from Lake County, Madison Police Department, Highway Patrol, Game, Fish & Parks, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, and the City of Flandreau all responded to the threats. Local officials and the school are also working with the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Wellman stated that nine agencies helped clear the school on what was one of the hottest days of summer, another element that added to the heightened emotions and challenges of the day.
Countless parents, while perhaps frustrated, did express gratitude during the debriefing to all who worked to secure the school, ensure its safety, and watch over their children that day.
Deputy Frias plans to address the situation and the possibility of the school adopting a formal student-parent reunification process as the next regular meeting of the FPS School Board. School Board meetings, unless otherwise indicated, are open to the public and are held the second Monday of each month in the Elementary School Commons.