Sandy Hook School Evacuated
Sandy Hook School was safely evacuated earlier today due to a bomb threat. Ongoing updates to follow.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect new information from First Selectman Daniel Rosenthal. We will continue to update as new information is received.
UPDATE: This story is updated to include a statement from the Newtown School District, as well as a statement from Newtown Police Department.
UPDATE: Additional statements from a midafternoon press release from the Office of the Superintendent have been included.
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Police and fire departments in Newtown responded around 9:30 Friday morning to a phoned-in bomb threat to Sandy Hook Elementary School. Police responded to the bomb threat; Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue and Newtown Hook & Ladder were dispatched when a fire alarm sounded at the same time at the school.
Children were safely evacuated from the school, and parents were reportedly arriving to pick up students shortly after 10 am.
Happening on the sixth anniversary of 12/14, parents and faculty were seen huddling near the Sandy Hook Elementary School sign at the end of Dickinson Drive. One parent, running from her vehicle on Sunnyview Terrace toward the location to where children had been evacuated, wiped tears while telling another parent "I know they're safe. I know they're safe. It's just the emotions, you know, and its the same place," she said.
Another parent said she also knew her child was safe, but she was nevertheless "scared."
For those who were already arriving Friday morning, there was an eerie sense of dread similar to that experienced on December 14, 2012. This time, parents were able to receive the all-clear much sooner, along with assurances that all students were safe. There were no injuries reported.
First Selectman Daniel Rosenthal, in a statement to The Newtown Bee, said that a threat was phoned in and "police handled appropriately. I think everything was well managed. [Superintendent of Newtown Schools Dr] Lorrie Rodrigue has everything under control. Due to the sensitivity around the [Sandy Hook] school, she decided to dismiss early."
Mr Rosenthal said that at the time he was unsure as to whether other schools in the district would dismiss early.
"There is no shortage of crazy, cruel people in the world, unfortunately," Mr Rosenthal added, as he arrived at the scene to meet with Dr Rodrigue and others.
According to an announcement to school parents from Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue, parents were asked not to pick up students from the school, as to not interfere with the police investigation at Sandy Hook School.
Staff members were instructed to ride each bus that is taking Sandy Hook School students home and, “will not let a student off unless there is a parent or guardian there to greet them.”
The message also relayed that all students were safe.
“At this time there is no need to be concerned at any of our other buildings;” precautionary measures are being taken at other buildings to minimize visitors to school campuses, according to the district’s message.
The district's shelter in place was lifted at 11 am. All other schools were to continue on their normal schedule, according to the school district.
A further update from Dr Lorrie Rodrigue, issued just before 11:30, indicated all Newtown schools had been "placed in a safe school mode, which now has been lifted. All other buildings will be dismissed at their regular time.
"Please know that staff worked to keep Sandy Hook School students calm during the dismissal process, and Sandy Hook staff will be riding the buses home with students," her statement continued. "Again, all students are safe."
Newtown Police Lieutenant Aaron Bahamonde issued a statement later Friday morning that said the department had received a bomb threat at approximately 9 am.
“Today, at approximately 9 am, Sandy Hook School received a [telephoned] bomb threat.
“Officers were dispatched to that location to investigate. It was decided as precautionary measure to evacuate the school so that a proper and thorough ‘sweep’ could be done.”
The lieutenant added that the students who had evacuated were taken to “a safe location,” but he did not disclose that place.
“Based on the circumstances, it was decided that it would be in the best interests of students and faculty to dismiss school for the day,” he said.
There were no injuries in the incident.
Three bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in to check the school and grounds, he said. By 11:15 am, those dogs had checked the school’s interior and were then checking the school grounds, Lt Bahamonde said.
The property has multiple video surveillance cameras, he said.
“We don’t believe it’s a credible threat,” he said.
“It’s very difficult on the anniversary,” he said, noting that it was six years ago that the Sandy Hook School shooting incident occurred.
In a press release issued by the Office of the Superintendent shortly after 2:30 pm, Dr Rodrigue noted "As you know, December 14th was already going to be a challenging day for the Newtown community," and goes on to confirm the information contained in the police statement.
"Despite the difficulty of the day, staff, administrators, and community members handled this incident calmly, professionally, and with students' best interests at heart. I applaud the courage and strength that was so visible throughout the day. As always, the safety and security of our students and staff is paramount," she said.
Two bomb threats were received locally on Thursday, December 13, Lt Bahamonde also noted.