CPS discusses bomb threat policy


Elad Gov-Ari

Student Resource Officer Keisha Edwards speaks with a student in the main office. Edwards is a staple to the district’s plans regarding bomb threats.
As schools have refined their plans for facing potential school shootings, when the Los Angeles school district shut down because of a tip from the CIA on a potential terrorist attempt, Columbia Public Schools administrators realized their current method of protection will need to be used against an array of potential threats.
For the past five years, CPS has practiced the ALICE drills (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) as a method of protection. With the ALICE drills covering so many different hypothetical situations, ranging from bomb threats to potential shootings, CPS relies on its methods to protect against most in-school threats. CPS does not have a dedicated procedure and thus relies on ALICE, among other drills, to cover all angles.
Emergency management coordinator and assistant principal Dr. Tim Baker defines the parameters of terrorism and how RBHS might respond.
“So far we don’t have any specific procedure in place for a ‘terroristic threat’, although you could define ‘terroristic’ as a threat against any large group of people, which could be a lot of different things,” Dr. Baker said. “At a local level, our ALICE procedures are really good at evacuating the building. The drill itself is really effective and as a school we do it very quickly but a terroristic threat could be so many different things that our method of handling it would be very circumstantial.”
In terms of effectiveness, both Dr. Baker and CPS communication director Michelle Baumstark agree that the current drills will protect students from terrorists and all other harms.
“The school district has a comprehensive safety and security plan that addresses everything from natural disasters to medical emergencies to threats or intruders,” Baumstark said.  “Any terroristic threats are also addressed in our safety and crisis plans.”
Using a hypothetical bomb threat as an example, Dr. Baker explains one of many general policies practiced at RBHS.
“We have procedures given to us by the FBI as far as how you search a classroom, how you search an area and for who does what and when,” Dr. Baker said. “Teachers know what to do, and luckily for us we haven’t had a true bomb threat in a long time, yet we still practice these drills twice a year to be safe.”
Based off the regular drills and practices most students, such as RBHS sophomore Ashwath Elangovan, trust CPS’ capabilities to ward off most terroristic threats.
“I feel pretty safe at RBHS and [based off] all the drills we have and the general understanding from students on what to do, I think the school is pretty well equipped to handle any threats,” Elangovan said. “ At the very least, the drills help make students think of certain issues and what they should do at those times.”
Disagreeing with Elangovan, Dr. Baker feels that CPS, and more specifically, RBHS should practice and go over the drills more often to prevent future tragedies, as twice a year isn’t sufficient.
“I don’t think we practice enough. I think we’ve got really good procedures; I honestly do. I’m a big proponent of those ALICE procedures, although my problem with it is we are mandated to do10 fire drills a year, but there hasn’t been a death by fire [in a school] for over 50 years,” Dr. Baker said. “So we practice something 10 times a year that hasn’t been too big of an issue for quite a while, but there were over 400 people killed in school shootings in the last decade, yet we only practice that twice a year. To me that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, which leads me to think that we are not well prepared despite having great procedures.”