Bomb scare leads to cell phone rules

Published 3:35 pm Friday, April 27, 2007

NATCHEZ — A Thursday bomb threat at Natchez High School has prompted district officials to take a school rule one step further.

Approximately 10 NHS students received a text message on their cell phones Thursday afternoon saying there would be a bomb in the school during seventh period.

School authorities were notified and the building was evacuated. No bomb was found.

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As a result of the disruption, any cell phone found in the possession of a student will be immediately confiscated and kept for the remainder of the school year, Director of Operations Wayne Barnett said.

“We are going to take a proactive stand against cell phones throughout the district,” he said. “When you look at the safety of all the kids, cell phones create a problem.”

Barnett said interruptions like Thursday’s can lead to panic, confusion and potential safety concerns.

The district’s handbook has stated for years that students are not allowed to have cell phones on campus.

The handbook states that a first offense is punishable by phone confiscation. A parent must come to the school to retrieve it.

A second offense is punishable by one day of in-school suspension, and phone confiscation.

A third offense means the phone is taken for the remainder of the school year and five days in-school suspension.

But now, all phones will be confiscated for the year, regardless of what offense number it is.

Thursday’s threat prompted school officials to reorder dismissal times, getting NHS students off campus first.

Normally, buses pick up West and Frazier Primary students first, at shortly after 2: 15 p.m. Robert Lewis Middle and NHS students are picked up last. Thursday, buses went to NHS at 2:15 and RLMS right after that.

Students in the lower grades were picked up about an hour after their normal time.

“In light of everything that is going on throughout the country, we though we’d just go ahead and get the kids off the campus,” Superintendent Anthony Morris said.

Employees left shortly after students.

“We feel like this is a copycat from Delta State,” Morris said.

The Cleveland university closed Tuesday and Wednesday after repeated bomb threats.

Several colleges and secondary schools have closed or evacuated in the weeks since the Virginia Tech massacre due to threats.

Law enforcement officers were called to the scene at Natchez High and are investigating.

Morris stressed that the district does not have time for such interruptions with state testing starting Tuesday.

“Student and parents really need to realize the seriousness of doing something like this,” he said.

“It just disrupts the learning process for everybody. It raises the level of tension, and you just don’t ever know how far the ripple will go when they do something like that.”

Morris said students responsible would face expulsion and possibly jail time.