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Monson impressed by bomb threat response

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

Morris Area students and staff responded more quickly and efficiently than expected to Tuesday's bomb threat, the district superintendent said.

"I think it went very well," said Scott Monson in the aftermath of the threat which shut down the Morris Area high school and elementary school early Tuesday afternoon. "Our staff handled everything exceptionally well, and the students were well-behaved, respectful and handled themselves maturely. It was everything we could have asked for."

District officials learned of the threat at about 1:05 p.m. Tuesday in a school bathroom. The threat did not identify individuals, according to Monson.

Area law enforcement was notified and the district followed crisis procedures, and school administration and law enforcement decided to evacuate school buildings for the safety of students and staff, Monson said.

Students were on their way home and the schools shut down by about 2 p.m. Law enforcement and school personnel searched school facilities and found no credible evidence of the threat, he said.

"Safety in a crisis situation, that's the first thing you have to focus in on," Monson said.

The district has procedures that staff members are aware of and they handled Tuesday's situation well, he said.

"You can't run around in a panic," he said. "As adults, we're the ones kids are going to take their cue from, and even though inside you're in need of a lot of Tums, you can't let that show. From the time we made the (evacuation) announcement until everyone was out was shorter than we anticipated."

A school district will handle any number of crisis-type situations, Monson said, but that unlike a blizzard or storm, "in this situation, there was not a lot of time" and more than 800 students and dozens of staff members had to be evacuated calmly and efficiently.

Following procedures, the district's calling system was activated, a media release was issued and a notice was placed on the school's Web page, he said.

"I don't think the students and staff were ever in danger, but you have to take a threat seriously until you're 100 percent certain of their security."

Monson said that, as of Thursday, investigations have not revealed the person or persons responsible for the threat. The Morris Police Department is actively investigating, and anyone with information is asked to call the Morris Police Department at (320) 589-1155 or the Morris Area School District Office at (320) 589-4840.

"Overall, if there is a silver lining, it's that we're not real experienced at these kinds of things," Monson said. "And we don't want to be good at these things. But we want to improve and be ready if we need to be."