Parents and educators across the Province got an unusual scare last week when some schools in northern and eastern Ontario were the subject of one of the most heinous crimes imaginable – a series of bomb threats.
“Members of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) are investigating multiple bomb threats across parts of Northern and Eastern Ontario,” reads an OPP statement. “The threats targeted multiple schools under multiple school boards and other facilities, demanding payment. As a precaution, many targeted schools and facilities have been closed while the investigation continues. Parents are encouraged to contact their schools or school boards for more information. In addition to local officers, the OPP Cybercrime Investigations Team is engaged. The public is always encouraged to report any suspicious activity that could be a risk to public safety.”
Reports suggest that the brunt of the threats were levelled against schools in northern Ontario, though the impact of the threats was certainly felt in schools in the North Grenville area as well.
Local French Catholic schools all went into a “Hold and Secure” procedure upon hearing the news, though some reports suggest that in some schools, it may have been treated more as a “lockdown” situation, with students being pulled from hallways into random classrooms to shelter.
Some of these schools in the area were evacuated and closed for the day, including École secondaire catholique Embrun. Students in that school reported being quietly asked to evacuate and proceed to an offsite shelter location without being told why. The students in evacuated schools were kept at the shelter locations until end-of-day dismissal, when they returned to school property to board buses or be picked up. Parents wishing to pick up their children earlier needed to make arrangements. Several Toronto schools were fully evacuated as well.
While not specifically named or targeted, the English public schools run by the Upper Canada District School Board were also put on high alert by the threats. Secondary schools had their doors locked, which is uncommon (doors are normally left open since students are permitted to be outside freely during break periods). Elementary schools – which always have their doors locked – were directed not to let their students out for recess, and increased attention was paid to identifying visitors.
Making a bomb threat is a crime, even without intending to act on it or having the means to act on it. Making such a threat against schools certainly adds a level of severity. Schools remain incredibly safe places, and the investigation into the source of the threats is ongoing, with no arrests yet made as of the time of writing.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).