Arnold High School bomb threat leads to evacuation

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A threat at a local high school has prompted questions of how these types of situations are handled, and although district officials tried to reassure everyone was safe, some parents say they want more communication.

What's typically a drill turned into a real-life scenario Tuesday at Arnold High School.

"Yeah, I left some bombs at my high school and they're going to blow up in fifteen minutes. Me and my friend both have guns," That's the call that came into the Panama City Beach Police Department just after noon Tuesday.

"When we got the call, it had already been eight minutes so they had to move quickly. The staff did exactly what they were supposed to do," said Bay District Schools Safety and Security Chief, Mike Jones.

"They just said in backpacks placed around, I think the police are working it and what we've heard so far, which we still have to confirm some things, is something from off the west coast, I think they said possibly California is where the call came in from, that area," Arnold High School Principal Keith Bland said.

According to Bland, district officials and law enforcement quickly jumped into action and evacuated the school.

"We plan for these types of situations, we practice, we drill and everything went smoothly out there today [Tuesday]," Jones said. "The sheriff's office sent all their officers they could spare, the Beach Police Department. We had the Bay District Schools officers on scene and got the kids out of harm's way and then the sheriff's office bomb dogs came in and searched the school."

Even though an automated message went out, parents were still left wondering what was going on.

"I'm here with other parents are we're just trying to put pieces of the story together so we definitely need some facts," said Arnold High School parent, Regina McCracken. "As a parent, I just wish we had a little bit more information coming in."

"Still trying to get some more information myself. Bits and pieces as it comes in from law enforcement, but the thing we do know is that everything is safe and everything is secure and it was a false threat that was called into the school," Bland said.

"We're all concerned," McCracken added. "The police have locked down the road here so you can't get to the school. We, of course, would all like to go get our kids but I understand that these are procedures put in place for everyone's safety. You wouldn't want someone else to come in as a third-party accessory to what is already going on and make the situation that much worse, so I understand that they have to lock down."

School officials said they did their best let everyone know their kids were safe.

"It was under control. We had plenty of police force on campus to help. The students were safe and in a secure area. You have to do it in an orderly way to make sure students are accounted for. So we have to have some order and some process with it," Bland said. "There is always things to work on, usually after a drill like this. When you're doing a controlled drill, it's a controlled environment, so after this we're going to sit down and see ways we can improve what took place today and ways we can also enhance students safety and security."

Even through all the worrying, McCracken said she feels everyone was doing their best.

"These are crisis situations and it's hard to critique in the moment," she explained. "It's today's society, unfortunately, and I think we all would do our kids justice by trying to teach them a little bit about what to do in situations like this and trying to make a plan, an emergency plan, and unfortunately, it's just what we have to do nowadays."

After a thorough sweep of the school, law enforcement officials said no threatening items were found and an arrest is imminent.