Parents and students react to bomb threats plaguing Alachua County Public Schools

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Following arrests of the two teenagers allegedly responsible for the bomb threats, parents and students share their experiences.

The students at Newberry High School evacuated campus on Sept. 24 with hurried steps, silently hoping what they were experiencing was a dream.

Freshman Alan Orbegonera, 14, said he didn’t think the bomb threats made toward the school were real, but he was unsure whether he wanted to find out or not.

“I thought the dude was just playing around at first,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d react this way, but it was scary. I was scared.”

The “dude” Orbegonera referenced is suspected to be two people – 17-year-old Ransel Lugo and 15-year-old Sarah McKay – who were both arrested Sept. 30 on suspicion of their connections to the five bomb threats made at both Newberry High School and Oak View Middle School since the beginning of the school year.

Parents of the students of the two Newberry schools didn’t know how to handle the situation, with many threatening to pull their children out of school out of fear of the unknown.

“It’s terrifying,” Tracy Glover, mother of a Newberry High School student, said. “My daughter will not return until this person is caught.”

Police have arrested two suspects, but concerns still loom above these parents and students. 

“I’m glad two children have been arrested,” another parent Tammy Bechtold said. “I have an elementary child who has been scared to death… I have kept her out of school the past few days ‘cause I would sit in my car waiting to pick her up.”

Alachua County Public Schools Public Information Officer Jackie Johnson sent a message to the families affected by the incident Sept. 30. In it, she wrote about ways the schools planned to break down how the consequences of actions like the ones displayed Sept. 24 could have on someone’s life. An excerpt of the message reads: 

“…school administrators and school resource officers/deputies will be talking to students at all our middle and high schools about the threats and the very serious and possibly life-long consequences for those who make them…There are a lot of careers that will be closed off to them—in fact, it will be tougher to get any job.”

Johnson also clarified that law enforcement found no direct threat to Oak View Middle School. However, she could not explain how the rumors of the threat began.

According to students at Newberry, school life has been normal following the arrests. No protocol such as clear book bags, metal detectors or any restrictions on bag types have been implemented. 

The school did add a Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line outside the front of the school. The community-centered program offers up to $1,000 to people who report information that leads to an arrest.

While the implementation of Crime Stoppers has eased the minds of some people, many students have felt on-edge following the incidents and are hyperaware of their surroundings.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen again,” high school freshman Ryan Guthrie said. “But you never know. You’ve just got to be aware for that kind of thing. It could happen anytime.”

ACPS spokesperson Jackie Johnson and Newberry High School Principal James Sheppard did not return requests for comment.

 

About Sarah Sepe

Sarah is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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