Herald and Journal, March 13, 2000

School bomb threat conviction carries felony charge

By Andrea Vargo

"A couple of minutes of what sounds like fun, can cause you trouble for a long time," Scott Sandberg of the Wright County Attorney's Office said about bomb threats.

Students were evacuated from the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) schools in Howard Lake Wednesday, when a bomb threat was phoned into the school at 11:30 a.m., said Howard Lake Police Officer Butch Darsow.

HLWW Superintendent Riley Hoheisel explained that the school's emergency plan went into effect immediately.

Students were removed from the building and relocated to local churches, where they remained until the all-clear was given about 1:50 p.m.

Elementary students had already eaten lunch, and the junior high students were at the end of their lunch period, when the call came, said staff members.

Lunch was shuttled to the senior high students at their safe location, said Hoheisel.

Searchers from the Howard Lake and Waverly Fire Departments, Howard Lake Ambulance service, and the Wright County Sheriff's Department were guided through the rooms by school administration and department heads, said Howard Lake Fireman Joe Drusch.

"This is an extremely dangerous situation," Hoheisel said.

"I want to stress the severity of this kind of thing, and we will push to find the perpetrator and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law," Hoheisel stated Thursday.

It takes up time for the fire departments, ambulance, police departments, and disrupts the day for the students, he said.

There were about 20 fire department people from Waverly and Howard Lake and various administration and staff people who searched the building, said Hoheisel.

Some locks on student lockers had to be cut to allow access for searchers, noted Hoheisel.

He said some consequences will be up to the legal system, and Principal Mike Day will handle the in-house discipline issues, he said.

Day also stressed that this is a very serious situation, and he plans to push for the highest penalties.

Those penalties begin with a minimum automatic suspension of three to 10 days, at Day's discretion.

Also, there is the possibility of expulsion from the school district for the offending student.

That would come from a recommendation to the school board, which would make the final decision, he said.

Darsow said the legal system will address other penalties.

Sandberg, who handles a lot of the juvenile cases for the county, explained that a bomb threat that empties a school is most serious.

"It is a felony charge and, if the person is convicted, will result in a felony record," he said.

It could make it more difficult on the child if he/she is ever convicted of something as an adult, said Sandberg.

A conviction will probably result in probation until the child is 19, community service, restitution (which can be quite high), an apology to the school, and time spent in a juvenile facility, he said.

Lino Lakes has a juvenile lock-up where the child will probably be incarcerated for 15 to 90 days, if convicted, Sandberg said.

The judge could even send the child to one of the programs in the northern section of the state if he feels the time at Lino Lakes didn't do any good, he said.

This sort of thing scares people, he said, and if convicted, the child will not just get a slap on the wrist.

The student who made the call has possibly been identified, Day said, but he refused to comment on the age of the student or where the call came from, although a reliable source said the call came from inside the school.

The investigation continues and the school staff is working with the Howard Lake Police Department and the Wright County Sheriff's Department, Hoheisel said.

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