NORTH ANDOVER — A 16-year-old female student faces a felony charge with a maximum of 20 years in jail if convicted of writing a bomb threat on the wall of the girls bathroom at North Andover High School.
The girl was arrested at the school yesterday morning after staff and police analyzed surveillance tapes of the hallways, interviewed students and compared student handwriting samples to the note scrawled on the wall on Friday.
The note read: "We're bomming (sic) North Andover High! We're killing everyone 3/20/08 be ready." No students were named in the threat.
"Fortunately, we were able to identify the person who was responsible," said Principal Carla Scuzzarella. She said no other students are believed to be involved.
The student, whose name was withheld because she is a minor, was taken to Juvenile Court yesterday. She was charged with threat with an explosive, which is a felony, and a misdemeanor charge of disturbing school assembly.
Police Lt. Paul Gallagher said it is up to the courts to decide if she is to be tried as an adult, but that even minors are charged with the felony because any threat involving a school is serious.
The note was found by another student, who reported it to a teacher. The teacher reported it to School Resource Officer Thomas Donovan and administrators. Scuzzarella said she did not evacuate the school because the date was in the future so the threat was not immediate.
The threat was reported to police just after 2 p.m. on Friday after most students had been dismissed.
Parents learned soon after. An automated alert system had just been set up at the high school that can call all the parents and staff simultaneously to let them know of pressing news. The system hadn't even been tested yet, so the first message parents received on the new system was alerting them of the bomb threat. Scuzzarella said she thought it was important to tell parents exactly what happened to curtail rumors that were already circulating the school.
Parent Steve Spanos was one of the parents who received the call about 5:30 p.m. Friday. He said he appreciated the notification.
Spanos said he talked with his children at dinner Saturday about how serious the threats are. He has two daughters at the high school and another child in the school system.
"Let's just hope they really send a good, strong message to the rest of the kids that this is not something we play around with," he said.
He said he felt safe sending his children to school yesterday, but was not planning to send them to school on March 20 if the person who wrote the threat wasn't caught.
"That's why it is my hope that this individual is dealt with in a very serious manner," he said. "This is not a joke."
Gallagher said police take any threat at the schools seriously, especially since school violence across the country has led to many high-profile stories in the last decade.
It has been almost nine years since two students opened fire at Columbine High School in Colorado, killing 12 students and wounding 23. Just last month, a student at Northern Illinois University shot and killed seven students and wounded 15 more.
Gallagher said extra police were assigned to the school yesterday morning, but will not be there for the rest of the week because the student responsible has been arrested.
Scuzzarella talked with all the students at an assembly yesterday morning to tell them the student had been caught and to thank them for their cooperation in the investigation.