A lower school student of Wolmer’s High School for Girls in Kingston, on Friday recounted how a bomb threat caused the entire student and teacher population at the institution to leave classrooms and head over to National Heroes’ Circle, where they stood in the “boiling sun” awaiting further orders.
Classes were eventually suspended following the threat, which the police maintain was just a hoax, as there has been no evidence of bombs anywhere. The security forces have had to roll out their bomb teams islandwide, accompanied by sniffer dogs to assist them in their search for evidence of explosives on school compounds.
The police have since made only one arrest in connection with the fake bomb threats which were issued to nearly 80 schools across the island.
The national security ministry said that the bomb threats caused a significant strain on law enforcement resources that are already in high demand.
“They didn’t specify over the intercom but most people thought it was based on what happened at Immaculate and other schools the day before where there were bomb threats. We were told to line up and not panic. Everyone went to Heroes’ Circle, where at least one girl fainted. Luckily, I had my umbrella with me. Everybody was running around looking for cool shade and water. Some people were sitting because standing up made them very tired. It was very hectic,” the student related to the Jamaica Observer.
She said that school was eventually dismissed earlier than usual.
The bomb threat at Wolmer’s was just one in a series of messages said to have been sent in the form of e-mail, that were relayed to numerous schools across the island Thursday and Friday, warning of imminent danger.
St George’s College in Kingston also had to send students home early on Friday because of a bomb threat.
On Thursday, Immaculate Conception High School in St Andrew was among several schools that were disrupted in numerous parishes across Jamaica.
One parent shared that when she got the news of a bomb threat at her daughter’s school at Immaculate, panic immediately set in.
“I panicked when there was the bomb threat at Immaculate on Thursday. I was not able to leave where I was at the time because I am a doctor who was on call. I started to panic because I was far away and had to be making phone calls to have my children picked up,” the mother shared.
Another parent, this time of a Wolmer’s Girls student, appealed to the authorities to pay attention and get to the bottom of the hoax.
She also directed appeal to the people or person sending out these e-mail and called on them to stop creating trauma in children.
“If this is something that people are doing like a prank, it is not funny. These children are exposed to real-life trauma, even if the situation is not real. Even if it is a hoax, it is traumatic for you to think about bomb threats. Jamaica is so small. The kids are thinking about how they would survive if a bomb goes off. I don’t know any schools that have safety protocols for bombs. That was never a thing that we had to worry about in the grand scheme of things we already have to worry about.
“Now the kids have to worry about bomb threats. That is scary. I am very concerned about the lasting effects things like this will have on the students. They just had an earthquake and that shook them up. I really hope the authorities will put their feet down and get to the bottom of this.
“You are disrupting school proceedings for foolishness. I am disgruntled and annoyed. It makes me feel uneasy as a parent to know they are targeting school,” the mother said.
Sustainable development professor at The University of the West Indies, Anthony Clayton, told the Sunday Observer on Friday that in order for Jamaicans to have peace of mind and for a message to be sent to the people creating fear, perpetrators have to face severe punishment.
“Some people might just want to see the chaos they can cause with students being evacuated, police having to be deployed to the area and parents running from all over to try and get their kids back. It could be that this was done with the intention of drawing the police away from certain areas where they are more desperately needed.
“I am hoping the police will be able to trace the e-mails back and identify the people who sent them and put them before the courts. This is to be taken very seriously. If they start with schools, where will they go next. Make a real example of who is sending them,” Clayton urged.