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Bomb reference forces New Richmond Middle School evacuation

The vague graffiti, written upside down in pencil and located in a stairwell, could have been there for years. But a New Richmond Middle School student accidentally came across a note which read "I have a bomb." The student reported the graffiti at 2:53 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 22.

Because the school day was just about complete, officials decided not to order an immediate evacuation of the building. It likely would not have sped up the process of students leaving the building anyway, said Principal Mike Ballard.

"This was probably not a situation that was an extreme risk," Ballard said. "You have to address it though."

When the school day was completed, the building was evacuated of staff and students. Police and school officials completed a sweep of the Middle School. They found nothing.

"We searched every place we could think of," Ballard said. Searchers swept through every room, from the gym to the locked storage closets.

"Our student safety is our primary concern," Ballard said. "You're not going to just blow it off, even though it (the graffiti) looked old to me."

The investigation into the situation continues, although Ballard said there are no strong leads leading to the note's author.

A letter was sent home with students Wednesday to inform parents of the bomb reference written on the wall. The letter asks parents to talk with their children about such threats and to emphasize that bombs are not a topic that should be joked about.

The letter referenced the school's policy on emergency procedures that was adopted by the school board. Superintendent Craig Hitchens and the police were immediately notified and an investigation was begun.

"Due to the timing of the reporting of the incident, we were able to deal with this situation with a minimum of disruption to after-school activities," he wrote in the letter. "We view this as a serious situation, but feel that student safety was never at risk.

"We appreciate the cooperation of the students and the support of the staff and police department."

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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