Suspect found, no bomb found at Cridersville Elementary

No bomb was found and a suspect located as Cridersville Elementary School students returned to the building shortly before 10 a.m. Monday.

“We have a student who did it, we know who did it and are now going through the disciplinary process,” Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Keith Horner said.

A fourth-grade student at the school wrote the bomb threat on a note that staff members were alerted to by a student at 7:45 a.m., Horner said. The building was immediately evacuated and students arriving were rerouted.

In addition to going through the school disciplinary process, the female student who made the threat also may face criminal charges, which are being pursued by Cridersville police officials.

“Based upon what I know, this is a felony and they don’t make exceptions,” Horner said.

There also may be the possibility of a financial obligation to pay for area emergency responders, including the Allen County Regional Bomb Squad, which sent several members and two bomb detecting K-9s to the scene, the superintendent explained. The cost would be the responsibility of the parents or guardian.

The note was found under a book bag in the school’s vestibule, where students who are dropped off early at the school must wait before being permitted to enter the school. Typically adults are in and out of the area watching students during that time, Horner explained. The Cridersville Elementary School day doesn’t begin until 8:15 a.m.

A One-Call went out to Cridersville parents to alert them of the situation and district personnel also posted information on the Wapakoneta City Schools Facebook page.

The school’s 341 kindergarten through fourth-grade students, as well as preschoolers and 37 staff members, walked down the street to Cridersville United Methodist Church, where they remained throughout the evacuation. They walked back to the school after a sweep deemed it clear. Some parents chose to keep their students at home for the rest of the day.

Cridersville Police Chief John Drake filed a report of the incident at the Auglaize County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office on Monday. He was recommending charges of inducing panic on the student who wrote the note, although he said that could change based on the prosector’s recommendation.

“We take all calls like this very seriously,” said Drake, who received the call at home Monday morning and immediately called in officers to help him evacuate the school.

Parents in the midst of dropping off their children were turned away and Cridersville Fire Department and EMS sent vehicles out to help block traffic.

Also assisting at the scene were deputies with the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office and troopers with the Wapakoneta Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The FBI also came on scene.

“With all the other terrorist activities happening in the last week, they stopped to see what we had,” Drake said. “Kids think it is funny, but it is very serious and not a joke. We don’t take it as a joke and will prosecute the people who did it.

“This day and age you can’t sit back and wonder, you have to treat it as if there is a device,” he said. “You never know.”

After a bomb threat was made at Wapakoneta Middle School in January, and most of the district’s bus fleet disabled with punctured tires for a couple hours a little more than a week ago, Horner expressed mounting frustration.

No suspects have been identified in connection with the bus vandalism case. The student who made the bomb threat at the middle school is going through the court system now in connection with that incident.

“We continue to have school disrupted because of silliness,” Horner said. “It’s stupid. We will continue to educate despite this.”

In a message on Facebook, he urged parents to speak with their children about the seriousness of such threats.

The superintendent said while at the high school and middle school levels, staff tell students what has happened, they handle it more gently at the elementary level.

“Our staff is very good on handling this and do it in a grade specific manner, letting the students know that everything would be OK,” Horner said.

Horner said from the district’s perspective the situation was handled appropriately, but as with any incident, they will go back and review if they could have done anything better.