Bomb Hoax Closes 10 Schools in Idaho

Police are asking for help finding anyone involved in a bomb hoax that shut down the Lakeland School District's 10 schools Wednesday.

"We will prosecute the individuals involved to the fullest extent possible," said Chuck Kinsey, superintendent of the Lakeland School District. The district, which serves about 4,400 children in the Rathdrum and Spirit Lake area, is offering a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest. So far, police have no leads.

A custodian at Athol Elementary School found the first of 10 notes in the district about 5 a.m. Wednesday on the front door of the school. The note claimed bombs were at two of the district's schools, said Assistant Superintendent Ron Schmidt.

The note did not name the schools, prompting officials to close all 10 for the day, Kinsey said. Identical notes were found at all but two district buildings - Timberlake Junior High School and Timberlake High School in Spirit Lake - including the district office and the bus depot. School was expected to resume today.

The Kootenai County Sheriff's Department, Rathdrum police, Spirit Lake police, various fire districts and bomb-sniffing dogs from Fairchild Air Force Base and the Department of Homeland Security investigated. All Lakeland-owned buildings were searched; nothing was found.

"We found no evidence of any break-ins at the schools," Rathdrum Police Chief Kevin Fuhr said. "These notes were placed externally on doors."

Each note was computer-printed and sealed in an envelope with "read me" handwritten on it. The envelopes were taped to the front entrances of the buildings.

Though the note did not name the schools, "there's more specific verbiage that was used, no question," Schmidt said. "I think at this point, we'd better just leave it at that."

Fuhr said the notes mentioned a type of explosive device, but he declined to say which type. All notes have been sent to the state crime lab in Boise. He said it isn't clear whether all the notes are original or if some were photocopied. No surveillance cameras are at any of the buildings.

"The fingerprinting of the letters is probably going to be the best avenue, unless, like I said, somebody saw something or heard something that they can call and let us know about," Fuhr said.

Fuhr estimated the total distance between all targeted buildings to be more than 50 miles.

"(Given) the amount of time they would have had to spent traveling and contacting each of the schools, it's feasible for one person to do it, but obviously it'd be easier if there was more than one," Fuhr said.

Police said they would consider viewing each note as a separate offense.

Law enforcement officials were stationed at each school and notified students and parents who arrived at the building.

"We did have parents that reported to each school, but not a significant number. Most had gotten the word," Kinsey said. School employees were notified through phone trees, he said, and most students and parents heard of the closure through media reports.

Along with the school closures, all school-related activities for the day were canceled, including home and away sports games, music events, an elementary school's Drug Abuse Resistance Education graduation ceremony and field trips that can't be made up.

The hoax may mean summer vacation will be pushed back a day should the Lakeland school board vote to make up for the lost day, which Kinsey said is common.

Post Falls Middle School had a similar scare on Tuesday after school administrators learned a sixth-grade boy had told classmates the previous day that a bomb was going to explode in the school Tuesday at noon. Police talked to the boy and his parents and determined he was incapable of doing what he had threatened. The school was searched in the morning, then evacuated at noon for about a half an hour and searched again.

Nothing was found, and the boy is going through the confidential discipline process, said Becky Ford, assistant superintendent of the Post Falls School District.