COPPERAS COVE — In the wake of multiple bomb threats made at three schools, the Copperas Cove Independent School District announced Wednesday that classes at all campuses were canceled for the rest of the week.
According to a statement released by the district, classes are set to resume Monday.
“The district is reviewing emergency procedures and strengthening them before students are allowed on campuses,” Superintendent Joseph Burns said. “We’re doing everything in our power to provide a safe environment.”
The statement goes on to say that canceling classes will give police an opportunity to complete their investigations without more threats disrupting their efforts.
Burns initially mentioned the possibility of canceling classes at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
To date, the district has experienced nine threats since the beginning of December at Copperas Cove Junior High School, S.C. Lee Junior High School and Copperas Cove High School.
Make up days
Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, said districts must have 180 instructional days per state law. Ratcliffe said the district could ask for a waiver if it was unable to make up the days it misses.
“Usually, that waiver is given to districts that have experienced a natural disaster,” she said. “It would be highly unusual, but they certainly could ask.”
Another option would be to make up the days at some other time during the school year.
At Tuesday night’s board meeting, Burns mentioned the possibility of using days from winter or spring break.
Stacey Young, an 11th-grader at Copperas Cove High School, said the possibility of losing vacation days was upsetting to many students.
“This is getting ridiculous,” said Young, whose school has been evacuated three times since the threats began. “Some kids are happy to be getting out of class, but I don’t think they understand that if this keeps going on, we might not have a spring break.”
Strike a balance
While the district hopes that canceling classes will give investigators time to find those responsible for the threats, school safety expert Kenneth Trump said districts should think carefully before closing schools.
“Closing down schools every time there is a threat could feed into a cycle of additional threats,” said Trump, president of the Ohio-based National School Safety and Security Services consulting firm.
“One of the challenges of these incidents is striking a balance between not allowing the threats to disrupt the educational routine, while at the same time erring on the side of safety for kids,” Trump added.
News of the cancellation comes as two more suspects were detained by Copperas Cove police.
According to a statement from the department Wednesday, authorities detained a 14-year-old female Copperas Cove resident in connection with a bomb threat made Tuesday afternoon at S.C. Lee Junior High School.
A 13-year-old male Copperas Cove resident was detained in connection with another threat at S.C. Lee, which took place Dec. 7, according to the statement.
All of the detained suspects are juveniles, and all eight are charged with terroristic threats, a third-degree felony.
The threats disrupted classes and cost the district close to $200,000.
Speaking Wednesday, Sgt. Kevin Keller, a Cove police spokesman, said officials continued to investigate all nine incidents.
“We are in constant contact with the district as we continue our investigations,” Keller said.
Trump said it was common in such cases for the perpetrators of such threats to be current or former students.
“The sad part is those kids don’t realize that they are really setting themselves up for some very serious consequences,” Trump said.
“They think it’s a prank, but it ends up being a pretty costly learning experience.”
At Tuesday night’s board meeting, Burns also mentioned that the district had contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the threats.
Special Agent Erik Vasys, a spokesman for the bureau’s San Antonio field office, confirmed the FBI is providing assistance to Cove police, but said the threats are not a federal matter.
“The Cove police are taking the lead in this,” Vasys said. “At this point, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a federal matter.”
The district and police are asking for information about the threats.
There is a combined $3,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible. Call Crime Stoppers at (254) 547-1111 or go to covecrimestoppers.org.
Contact Chris McGuinness at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.