Nothing suspicious found after bomb threat at Free State; classes to resume on Friday

Students leave Lawrence Free State High School Thursday morning after the administration and Lawrence Police evacuated the building because of a bomb threat. It was reported by some students that a note that mentioned a bomb had been found on a door to the school Thursday morning.

Lawrence school district officials said a police search of Free State High School — the target of a written bomb threat Thursday morning — has turned up nothing suspicious.

Classes will resume at the school on Friday, according to Julie Boyle, district spokeswoman. She said after-school and evening activities on Thursday will be held.

Two exceptions:

• The Free State Scholar Bowls meet has been canceled, said Ted Berard, assistant principal.

• The Free State vocal rehearsal also has been canceled.

Boyle said police and school officials searched the building at 4700 Overland Drive and “found nothing that appeared suspicious, out of place or that would pose a threat to the safety and security of the campus.”

Free State was evacuated Thursday morning and all classes were canceled after a written bomb threat was discovered.

The district enacted its Crisis Response Plan, Boyle said Thursday morning, and families were notified that classes for the 1,502 Free State students had been canceled for the day.

The Lawrence Indoor Aquatic Center, which is adjacent to Free State, was evacuated at 8:30 a.m. About 20 people were in the pool at the time, and they were instructed to leave immediately.

The pool was scheduled to reopen at 3:30 p.m., with water-related classes conducted by Lawrence Parks and Recreation to continue as scheduled. Area swim swims also are permitted to practice at their scheduled times, but decisions about whether to conduct practice would be left to individual coaches, officials said.

Lawrence police were notified about 7:46 a.m. about the threat, said Sgt. Matt Sarna of the department’s public affairs office.

“All students and faculty were safely evacuated from the building as a precautionary measure,” Sarna said.

Colin O’Neal, a junior, had shown up for school a few minutes before 9:05 a.m. — just in time for his AP History class to begin — and quickly began wondering why his idling Ford Explorer Sport was one of only about a dozen cars in the parking lot.

He’d left home about 8:45 a.m., where he hadn’t yet received any notification in any official capacity that school had been canceled.

“I’ll probably just go home and play Skyrim,” he said, before driving off.

About one hour and 45 minutes after the official start of school Thursday, some parents were receiving an initial and second automated messaging system recordings from principal Ed West — their first official, direct notifications of the bomb threat. In the second recording, West mentioned “technical problems” and “message glitches” were to blame for the late notice to parents.

Alex Green, a junior, said he had been among many students told about 8 a.m. to leave by a school security guard. He then gathered outside with friends as they waited to find out what was going on.

“It was a little chaotic,” he said.

Green wasn’t worried about it when he was told to leave.

“I assumed it was a gas leak or something, he said, “so I just went home.”

Police urged anyone with information about the bomb threat to call the police department, 832-7650 or Douglas County Crime Stoppers, 843-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers does not subscribe to caller ID, and all callers remain anonymous. Tips to the Crime Stoppers hotline can lead to an award of up to $1,000.

More on this story as it develops.