Stawell Secondary principal Nick Lynch has stood by his coordination of Thursday’s evacuation after the school received two bomb threats via email.
The emails sent to the school’s main address claimed an explosive device planted on the school grounds would detonate at 2pm.
The first email was received at 12.40pm and a second followed at 1.36pm.
Police are still investigating the incident and persons involved.
Northern Grampians Acting Inspector Brendan Broadbent said police inspected the area and conducted all other necessary safety precautions.
“We took all precautions and made sure everyone was going to be safe,” he said.
“It appears the email spoke about a device being detonated at around 2pm.
“At this stage we are not discounting anything, we are not saying it is a hoax call, we are looking into it and trying to confirm the validity of the threat.
“The students have been catered for – this is obviously a disruption to their classes, but it is all done on safety precautions.”
We took all precautions and made sure everyone was going to be safe- Northern Grampians Acting Inspector Brendan Broadbent
Mr Lynch was right in the middle of interviewing a candidate for a job when the school abruptly came under threat.
Students and staff were quickly led into the science wing, despite standard protocol which recommends an evacuation onto the front oval.
But Mr Lynch said the science wing was the safest option under the circumstances.
“Because the school would have been searched for an hour and a half, the kids would have been outside in the heat for far too long if we evacuated out onto the oval,” he said.
“They would have had no access to water, toilets or sunscreen – they were safe in the science wing, the air-conditioning was highly effective and it was close to the front of the school.”
Mr Lynch said the science wing was always locked with external and internal doors, unless in use, and had no weekend access.
“It was a secure building and served its purpose,” he said.
Mr Lynch assured there were no gas tanks beneath the space students had been evacuated into, but said there was gas in the science room as well as every other room in the school.
“There is gas in the science room, but every room has gas because we have gas heating,” he said.
“When science is not taught the valve is shut off, so there was no danger to students and staff.
“Anywhere else would have been more risk and less convenience.”
They would have had no access to water, toilets or sunscreen – they were safe in the science wing- Stawell Secondary principal Nick Lynch
But a concerned parent Tash Notting said while the school did respond effectively, it neglected to notify parents early enough.
Ms Notting was notified via text message at 3.20pm, an hour and 20 minutes after the threatening email claimed an explosive device would be detonated on school grounds.
“As much as I was confident it was a hoax I'm not impressed that the school didn't notify me until much later,” she said.
“I knew what was going on as my daughter who is in year 7 was texting me about it.”
Mr Lynch said he understood the frustration, but it was crucial to look after his staff well-being at the time.
“We evacuated the building and staff left their working desks, so we were unable to SMS parents,” he said.
“Once you call the police in these instances, they then take control, so once it was safe to re-enter the building that is when we got in touch with parents.
“But of course we will take on board any feedback and will consider it for future.”
Department of Education councillor Lauren Cavanagh was at Stawell Secondary on Friday to talk to any staff and students concerned about Thursday’s events.
“This is what the Department deems a critical incident, so we try and send someone as soon as possible and just to have someone there for support,” she said.
“As well as support for students we also support staff, so we have had a good chat with some staff members, particularly some of the ladies on reception who took the initial email.”
Stawell Secondary well-being coordinator Jacinta Smith said some students had sought the school’s support services, but the majority had responded well.
“I think the students coped really well,” she said,
“We had a walk around the students this morning and let the kids know that we were here for support if needed – a few of them have taken up that opportunity, so that has been really good to see.
“I think for the most part most students would cope really well with incidents like these, but it’s good to offer that support as a just in case measure as student reactions would vary depending on past circumstances we don’t always know about.”
Ms Smith said after incidents like Thursday’s bomb threat parents should look out for symptoms such as shock, disbelief, anger, numbness, avoidance, mood changes and anxious behaviours.
If you or anybody you know needs support visit headspace.org.au.
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