Bomb threat clears campus


Erin Fox, Managing Editor

Nearly 2,800 Cal High students were evacuated last week after an anonymous phone call was made to the front office regarding a possible bomb threat on campus, school administrators said.

The call was made at 11:15 a.m. on Sept. 7, forcing students and staff to the football stadium, where they remained in the sun for about two hours until the campus was deemed safe.

Principal Sarah Wondolowski explained in an email read to sixth period classes two days later that the phone call was made by a concerned citizen who had “overheard something on an online video game conversation that led him to believe there was a threat at Cal High.”

In the email, Wondolowski expressed administration’s appreciation for “the quick and effective response” of all the students and staff waiting on the field during the investigation.

The decision was then made to evacuate the campus for student and staff safety. The campus was searched by HAZMAT officials, Walnut Creek police bomb squad and BART police explosive-sniffing dogs, and it was later determined that there was no credible threat, according to News 24/680’s Twitter account.

“In the event of an emergency, our top priority is always safety and second is communication,” Wondolowski wrote in her email. “In the aftermath of this incident, we are evaluating our emergency processes. We have found some strengths as well as some areas of growth to improve on in the next evacuation.”

Within 15 minutes of receiving the phone call, administrators evacuated the school, forcing all students and staff to congregate on the football field. About an hour into the evacuation process, Athletic Director Arley Hill told The Californian that students and staff would not be leaving the field “any time soon.”

A few minutes later, it was announced that the district had sent out text messages to parents of students informing them of the school’s evacuation because of a possible bomb threat. The message stressed that everyone was safe, and there was no reason for parents to come to campus.

In response to complaints of sunburn and overheating, Wondolowski advised that in the future, students should alert staff members of health concerns.

San Ramon police Sgt. Todd Santiago responded to an email from The Californian stating that there are no updates that could be provided, as the incident is a continuing investigation.

“Anytime we have an incident such as the threat, we study it and try to learn ways to always improve, with the ultimate goal of safety for our community,” Santiago wrote.  “Each situation is different and requires a different approach depending on the information learned or provided.

“It’s important to remember that we work in a partnership with the school and school district as a team to serve our students, families, school staff, and residents,” he added.

This was not the first time the campus was evacuated due to a possible bomb threat.

In October 2010, a male student was arrested because of a hoax involving a fake bomb.

As reported in the November 2010 issue of The Californian, the boy “allegedly put a device resembling a bomb in the third floor men’s bathroom.”

Senior and ASB President Jessica Gonsalves believes that the main priority  in situations like this is safety.

“I think that with the given situation, admin handled it very well and was concerned for our safety first and that they did a good job with keeping everyone calm but updated on the situation.” Gonsalves said.

The Californian reached out via Twitter to check in with its followers, asking how they felt about the evacuation.

User @niklas_kraemer referred to the ordeal as “the atrocious #Sungate”, but later admitted that “it is nice to know Cal was able to handle the ordeal smoothly”.

Another user, @averagegeneko, simply responded “bomb af.”