DURANT, Okla. -- A Durant school was evacuated after authorities found a suspicious package on the playground at Northwest Heights Elementary School.
Durant Police say a fourth grade teacher’s aide noticed a briefcase strapped to a slide on the playground just as school began this morning.
School administrators quickly decided to evacuate the building and within 20 minutes all the students were safe inside the intermediate school.
Officials say they practice emergency drills regularly so everyone knew how to respond.
Police, fire, emergency management officials, and the OHP bomb squad were called to the scene.
Lt. Johnny Rutherford of the Durant Police Department said, "This device, just to be found the way it was, it kind of makes us take it a little more serious."
Durant superintendent Terry James says his staff was prepared and executed emergency procedure effectively.
"Teachers very efficiently and effectively walked their students over to the intermediate school. If parents want to pick their child, they are able to do so. They are safe, and we’ll be glad to keep the children for the duration of the school day."
Around 1 p.m. authorities removed the briefcase from its original location and were able to open it using a water cannon.
Upon opening the package, the bomb squad found the briefcase empty.
No one was injured in the inspection process, and again all students were safely escorted to another school well before authorities began working the scene.
Press release from the Durant Police Department...
The Durant Police Department received information that afternoon that the package was connected to an ongoing “scavenger hunt” put on by several young people on behalf of a friends birthday party.
“It appears to us that there was no deliberate intent on the part of these young people to cause the level of fear and concern that was the result off the package at the school,” reported Chief Gary Rudick.
“We are relieved that the event was not intended to be a threat or to cause alarm but was simply a result of actions by teenagers who did not perceive their actions would ever cause such a ruckus.”
The possibility of criminal charges is unlikely as there is no clear criminal intent on the part of the young people.
“There was never a note, telephone call, or any other viable threat that was connected to this package,” Rudick said.
“It would be difficult to prosecute someone for a criminal act in this case without some identified intent. Their intent was to play a game. It is just a sad commentary on our society that we have to interpret such innocent actions as a serious threat.”
“This all began when a school employee noticed the package taped to the playground. She did the right thing and we think the response by the school and emergency responders was appropriate, especially considering the recent threats nationally against schools, the upsurge in school-related violence and the unknown we were dealing with.”
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