Urbana school district takes measures following Thursday Threat

Urbana school district takes measures following Thursday Threat

URBANA – Students and faculty at Urbana Middle School will have extra security measures the rest of the year after a threat was found in the school Thursday afternoon.

An employee found a graffiti message containing a threat about turning the school into "the next Virginia Tech" in a school bathroom at about 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon, said UMS Principal Nancy Clinton.

School staff immediately contacted the school resource officer and then called the police department, said John Muirhead, the district's spokesman.

The school also issued a Code Red, meaning that "students and staff stay in their assigned spots (without) passing of classes," Muirhead said. "It's sort of like a lockdown; you say 'We're all going to stay where we are.'"

Clinton said students behaved very well during the situation, and said they'd done emergency drills for such situations. "It looked like a drill to them," she said. "It's a whole lot different than when everybody was a kid."

Eighth-grader Luis Bedolla said this morning that he was in his seventh-hour class Thursday when the code was called, and his teacher closed the door and put paper over it until school let out.

School was released at the regular time, and students were sent home with a note for parents from Clinton. Afterschool activities and events were canceled.

"The police did a great job of surrounding the entire campus while we were dismissed," Clinton said. "Boy, there were a lot of them. We felt very protected."

School resource officer Tim McNaught said this morning the school was searched Thursday night and would have two police officers assigned to it today.

Eighth-grader Carla Sprewell was outside for a meeting on Thursday and couldn't get back into school for her books, she said. She's worried, she said, and doesn't want to be back in school today.

However, her friend Ja'Kyra Wright thought the message-writer would more likely be caught if school continued.

Clinton said she's had calls from nervous parents, understandably, she said. "If I was the parent of a child who went here, I'd be in mother-mode as well."

However, she said, the school is taking the threat seriously. Clinton said more teachers would be patrolling the halls and students would be kept in class. On rare occasions out of class, she said, students would have increased supervision from teachers – including bathroom visits – for the rest of the year.

Threatening messages have been found in four area schools since the massacre in April at Virginia Tech: at Monticello High School on April 19 and May 2; at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School on Tuesday; Oakwood Grade School on Wednesday; and Urbana Middle School on Thursday.

Clinton thinks summer fever may be causing some of the situations.

"It's close to the end of the year; kids are always restless," she said. "Some of them enjoy disturbing the environment."

At the same time, she said, "We can't afford to not take it seriously."

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