Bomb Threats at Jarvis
by Laura Barr
Male voice undisguised
It all started on Thursday December 11th with a call to the attendance office. The call came at about 1:50pm and was received by Mrs. Byrne. The voice was male and apparently undisguised. The secretary was told: "there's a bomb in the school, you better clear out." All of the secretaries have a special sheet of paper concealed at their desks which they fill out in the case of such a call. This was done and then an attempt was made to trace the call. All office phones are equipped with a special code designed to trace the last call received, but unfortunately this feature had not been installed properly and wasn't working. Ms. McKenzie was promptly notified of the call, and she then set the emergency procedures into action. All teachers in the building who weren't presiding over exams were called down to the office. They were informed of the situation and told to search the building for anything that looked suspicious. But just as the teachers were about to embark on their mission the police showed up and insisted that the building be evacuated. They gave these orders even though this is against both police and Board policy. Knowing this, Ms. McKenzie suggested to the police chief that perhaps it wasn't necessary to clear the building at that point. The police chief proceeded to call the staff sergeant, who told him it was his call. In the end the 2:00 exams were cancelled, and students were sent home after being given a chance to grab their various belongings.
Unusual police measures leave students out in the cold
The next day the students arrived for their exams blissfully unaware of the events that had taken place the day before. But at 8:30am another bomb threat was phoned in, this time to the main office, and received by Mrs. Mckray. Once again the voice was male, this time warning: "there's a bomb in a locker, you better evacuate." The police were again called and the building immediately evacuated. This was highly unusual, since the police don't usually clear a building based on such a call. The excessive measures taken by the police meant that students were locked out of the school without their coats, books, or anything else they had left behind.
Explosive-sniffing dog on holiday
Soon after, the bomb squad ( which is a division of the SWAT team) arrived to survey the scene. They informed Ms. McKenzie that the school couldn't be declared safe until it had been checked top-to-bottom by an explosive-sniffing dog. There are two such dogs available in Toronto, unfortunately one was on holiday, and the other was busy until 2:00pm that day. Due to this shortage of canine help, the Jarvis students were sent home without their belongings. Susan Mazza, a grade 12 student had left her books inside the school. When speaking contemptuously of the bomb threats she said: "I studied half an hour for my OAC French exam because of it."
When the dog finally did arrive it checked the entire building, focusing specifically on lockers. At one point the dog became excited by a locker on the third floor near the vocal room. The lock was cut, but the locker turned out to be empty. Just to be sure the lockers on either side were checked, but both turned out to be empty. Finally at about 4:00pm on Friday December 12th the building was declared safe.
Students treated "like cattle"
The administration staff at Jarvis realized that many students had left their belongings behind, and every effort was made to ensure they had access to their lockers before Monday. As many students were called as possible, signs were posted in the school doors, and announcements were made on numerous radio stations to inform students that the school would be open from 9:00 - 11:00 am on Saturday December 13th. The students who came to get their books entered through the front doors and were escorted by teachers to their lockers. Ms. McKenzie explained that this was not done because they feared someone would plant a bomb, but because they had to be able to say the building was still secure. The only way to ensure this was to keep track of everyone in the building at all times. These security measures were kept in place for the duration of the exam period, inconveniencing both teachers and students alike. Access to the building was restricted to the cafeteria, and the adjoining first-floor hallway. The rest of the building was either locked or blocked off by staff members on security duty. This meant that the hallways were overcrowded, and students were herded in large groups to their exams. Susan Mazza describes the situation by saying: "it was like we were cattle." Another grade 12 student, Liz Nelson, feels that "it was pretty unfair", but admits "that's really the way they had to do it."
Call traced to Metropolitan Reference Library
On Monday December 15th two more bomb threats were received by the main office. Luckily the school was able to ignore these threats due to the precautionary measures they had taken to ensure the safety of the building. The first came at 8:50am, and by the time the second call came in at about 1:00pm the code on the office phone was working, and the call was traced to a payphone outside the back door of the Metropolitan Reference Library. There are rumours floating around Jarvis that an OAC student paid a grade 9 to make the calls, but as of yet there are no real suspects and the case remains open. Ms. McKenzie encourages anyone with information to cal 222-TIPS.
Threats probably not an attempt to get out of exams
Many people feel that the bomb threats were made by a Jarvis student in an attempt to get out of exams. However, Ms. McKenzie provides a different view. She explained that on Tuesday December 16th there was a rash of bomb threat calls in the 52 division just west of Jarvis. To Ms. McKenzie this indicates that the calls were made by a prankster simply looking to make trouble. But even if the threats were an attempt to get out of exams, they failed. Thursday exams were rescheduled for the following Monday, and Friday exams were moved to January 5th, the first day back after the holidays. Nina Corfu, a grade 12 student, had two of her exams moved to January 5th. "I was so bitter" she said, "I seriously did not have a holiday." Liz Nelson echoes her sentiments, saying: "You had to study twice, and that really sucked."
Bomb threats " a hazard of life in the modern city"
When commenting on the bomb threats at Jarvis, Ms. McKenzie said that "it's a hazard of life in the modern city." This comment seems to ring true, as just last week Riverdale received a call before their exams, warning of a bomb in the school. This call also turned out to be a hoax, and was traced to a payphone on Danforth. Police arrived at the payphone, but found no one to charge.
Precautions to be taken in the future
In the future Jarvis will take precautionary measures before exams to ensure that there will be no more interruptions such as the ones experienced this December. These steps will include having students clear out their lockers before exams, although clearing out lockers this December had nothing to do with the bomb threats - they were being sprayed for cockroaches. So Jarvis students be warned, if you want to get of exams this June, you'll have to get more creative than bomb threats.
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