Bomb threats disrupt schools, raising safety concerns

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Police outside Cambridge High School on July 26, 2022 (Photo by Elizabeth Kirkby-McLeod)

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Wellington, July 28, 2022

At least sixteen schools across the country have received bomb threats over the past two days, twelve of them today (July 28, 2022), causing widespread disruption and fear of safety, New Zealand Principals Federation Chief Executive Cherie Taylor-Patel said.

She said that the threats were made from an overseas cyberbot.

The threat was received by schools in Masterton, Kaikōura, Greymouth, Queenstown, Levin, Whanganui, Rolleston, Tākaka, Geraldine, Dunstan, Ashburton and Palmerston North.

On Tuesday (July 26, 2022)  four North Island High Schools based in Waikato, Thames and Gisborne went into lockdown following bomb threats over the telephone,

The New Zealand Police do not believe that there was a safety risk associated with the threats but Ms Taylor-Patel said that hoax phone calls were also distressing.

She had spoken to the Education Ministry Secretary of education Iona Holsted.

Caution despite hoax

“According to the Ministry, the threats came from an overseas-based cyberbot. Although such threats were made about two years ago, not everyone is prepared and no one would like to experience these,” she said.

Ms Taylor-Patel was appreciative of the schools which handled the situation with calmness.

Awatapu College in Palmerston North said on its Facebook page that it received a bomb threat and evacuated the school.

Principal Gary Yeatman said that older students were sent home while Year 9 students were asked to wait in the gym after the Police cleared the area. They will be allowed to leave after obtaining permission from parents or caregivers.

Mr Yeatman said that his school has received a ‘live threat,’ whereas other schools said that they had received text messages.

“We contacted the Police immediately and following discussions with them, we decided to evacuate the place. We are planning to leave early since some of our staff were absent due to Covid. Therefore, our students missed only two classes,” he said.

The Police later cleared the school, saying that it was a hoax.

Wakatipu High School in Queenstown received a threat at about 11.30 am and evacuated the premises for about 80 minutes. The Dunstan High School in nearby Alexandra also received a threat and the school was evacuated.

The Police said that they had received 20 such threats today. Among them were Horowhenua College, Greymouth High School and a few in Kaikoura.

Police Minister Chris Hipkins said his Ministry and the Police had plans to deal with such threats.

Material sourced from Radio New Zealand under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz

 

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