Bomb threat empties Jellico High School

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By Beth Braden

A handwritten bomb threat found late Monday morning caused students and teachers to evacuate Jellico High School.

“We did have a bomb threat and our SRO [school resource officer] notified the sheriff’s department and the city police department and we evacuated the building and took them to our safe haven, which is over at the Crouches Creek Baptist Church,” said Jellico High School Principal Harry Chitwood.

The note was found just before noon. An announcement was made for all students and staff to exit the building.

There are 50 staff members and 350 students at Jellico High School.

Officials from Campbell County Emergency Management, the Jellico Police Department, the Campbell County Sheriff’s Department, and the Jellico Fire Department responded to the scene.

While students were corralled at the church, Campbell County EMA director Danny Sheckles was stationed at the Arby’s with two crews from North Regional Ambulance Service. A fire truck and police cars surrounded the school as officers began searching the building. Two-way radios crackled with instructions, questions, and updated information.

School and personnel guarded closed gates at the high school’s parking lot.

Police also called for an explosive sniffing dog from Knox County.

“We had to call Knox County Sheriff’s Office. We had to call one of their K-9 units that deals with bombs. It took some time for him to get there, obviously, and it took some time for us to clear the school,” said Campbell County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Brandon Elkins.

The sheriff’s department is investigating the incident and following several leads in order to prosecute the offender. School officials have the authority to dole out their own punishment, but a bomb threat is a state offense.

“A bomb threat is a criminal act. It is a felony in the state of Tennessee,” Elkins said.

The building and parking lot were officially cleared just after 3 p., and students were allowed to retrieve their vehicles from the parking lot.

“They’ve done a complete search of the building. They’ve not found anything,” said Campbell County Sheriff Robbie Goins said at the scene.

Throughout the afternoon, parents retrieved their children from the church. Remaining students were picked up after regular school hours or caught a bus home.

The incident also served to provide school officials with information about current safety plans.

“We learned some things from it. It was a good learning experience. We’ve learned some things we could do differently and do better, but all the teachers really pitched in and helped and took care of the kids,” said Chitwood.

Students returned to school on Tuesday.