Transcript of News Conference On Round Rock School Evacuations
Here is a partial transcript of a news conference held with reporters this afternoon concerning the evacuation of Deerpark Middle School and Live Oak Elementary School in the Round Rock ISD.
Sgt. John Foster with the Williamson County Sheriff's Office and Round Rock ISD spokesperson JoyLynne Occhiuzzi addressed reporters. First, John Foster's comments. (You can download audio of his remarks here.)
John Foster: Throughout the day we found this internet connection has gone to more than just one student. We have other information that we don't feel comfortable sharing right now because obviously what we want to do, what I want to do, and what everybody wants done, is somebody needs to go to jail for making this threat. If it's legitimate or if it's not legitimate, somebody needs to go to jail.
Reporter: Do you think it's a student here at Deerpark who made the threat?
Foster: I don't know. As soon as I say, "Oh this is probably some kid playing around," I'm not willing to risk my reputation or any kid's life on that.
Reporter: Can you say where the threat was posted? Was it email? Was it Facebook?
Foster: I really don't want to because I think at this point the focus needs to be on finding this person, and bringing this person before a jury or a judge.
Reporter: Are you saying that one student was the first one that received the threat on the internet then?
Reporter: And did that person immediately call police?
Foster: There was a little bit of delay because kids don't want to lose their internet privileges and everything else. But that alerted us the first time, and then as the day has grown and we looked into it… where we're at right now with this is that obviously throughout the day, the threat has grown, and other children have come forward and said, "Hey I know a little bit about this," and that's kind of where we're at. Obviously it's raised our concern. And I'll say it over and over again, we're not going to jeopardize any lives when we can take every precaution to protect them.
Reporter: Can you talk about how the threat has grown?
Foster: No I really can't, other than I will tell you, and you know me, I'll tell you everything I can. But my ultimate goal is to find this person or persons and put 'em in jail.
Reporter: Any idea if kids will be coming back to school tomorrow?
Foster: I would think that they would. But I don't want to make that call right now until after I hear an all clear from DPS and the canines and where our investigation is going. We're not going to recommend to the school district, and they wouldn't do it anyway, bring your kids back in because I think they're safe. We're not going to do that. If we can't say they're safe, then the kids won't be back here tomorrow.
Reporter: How do you sweep the building? Do you bring the dogs in?
Foster: It's a nightmare. This is a huge building and we have three canines here. If I have to bring in more canines, I've been assured by DPS that they'll get 'em. I've been contacted by AISD asking, "Do you want our canines?" If we need more, we'll bring in more.
Reporter: So you guys have to go locker through locker, room by room, with not only doing a visual search, but you also have to go through with dogs, right?
Foster: Yes. Yes, they're going to be doing a very thorough search, full confindence in them. When they give me the all clear that this is a safe building, I will notify Round Rock school district and they can make the call of what they're going to do tomorrow.
Reporter: Can you estimate how many other kids said they heard the bomb threat?
Foster: No. No I can't.
Reporter: Can you go over the timeline of when everything was happening?
Foster: I don't know the exact time of last night. I want to say it was 10 o'clock, 10:30 last night was when we got the first threat. And then this morning as it has grown, obviously our response has grown.
Reporter: Was there any timely component to the threat? Like something was supposed to happen at a certain time?
Foster: I can't get into that. Obviously last night if we would have known, "Hey, something's going to happen at a certain time," then that would have elevated our concern too. But like I've said and I'll say it again, and y'all have probably covered this a million times, people make bomb threats to get out of a test and everything else. But you have to weigh in on the credibility of each of them, and you have to weigh in on what exactly are they saying. Have they said, this is what's going to happen, they're very specific? Or is it just kind of loose. As they day has gone forward, it's become more specific. I'll let you know that.
Reporter: Was there any reason for this threat? Was there a conflict between the person who received the threat and…
Foster: No. No, from what our investigation is so far, and I don't want to get into too many specifics about our investigation, but there is no reason for this. They did not go and seek this. And this is a great case to bring before a judge or a jury for a conviction.
Reporter: Did the student who received the original internet message know the person who sent it?
Foster: No. That's what our investigation is undergoing right now.
Reporter: You do know who made the original threat though?
Foster: No. Right now, we are still in the investigation stages. I am hopeful that I'll be able to stand in front of you and say, "We've made an arrest and this is who it is," unless it's a juvenile, but right now we're still working on every lead, and we've got great assistance from the FBI, ATF, and DPS.
Reporter: [inaudible] safe for the kids to come to school this morning?
Foster: If we did not feel that the campus was safe this morning with the information we had, our first phone call would have been to Round Rock to let them know, "Hey this is what's going on." We've actually had conversations throughout the day with Round Rock ISD. We work great with Round Rock ISD. It's a great partnership. If there was any concern first thing this morning that this was going to develop into this then obviously we would have evacuated. But like I said, yesterday it was a very looser type threat. Where as compared to today, we're not going to take any chances.
JoyLynne Occhiuzzi is a spokesperson for the Round Rock Independent School District. She spoke after John Foster. You can download the unedited audio of her comments here.
Reporter: Give us a timeline of what happened.
JoyLynne Occhiuzzi: Earlier this morning, the sheriff's office did contact us and let us know that they did receive a threat last night. Our administration did a sweep of the school before kids came to school, and we did not see anything out of the ordinary. As the sheriff's deputies talked to students throughout the day, they alerted us that the threat did seem more escalated than it did this morning. Then we made the decision to go ahead and evacuate the campus.
Reporter: Can you tell us how parents were contacted? Because we've heard from a lot of parents that they were texted by their child and not necessarily called by the district.
Occhiuzzi: With technology these days, our students do have cell phones, and we do know that students were text messaging their parents. We did not have actual facts to share yet with their parents or the community. A lot of the information the students were giving to their parents early this morning were based on rumors and kids just making up some of the story. As soon as we received actual facts and concrete information, we told our parents immediately.
Reporter: When did you start evacuating?
Occhiuzzi: We did make the decision around 11:45 that we were going to go ahead and do an evacuation. We had our buses staged in an area near this location. It took 40 buses to arrive at the campus by 12:30 to pick up about 1,600 kids between both campuses, and they were taken to another location within about 30 to 45 minutes.
Reporter: Any word on school tomorrow yet?
Occhiuzzi: We plan to have school tomorrow. Of course, that does depend on what we learn from the sheriff's office later tonight. But at this time, we do not see any need to cancel school in the morning.
Reporter: Was one of your methods of notifying parents your computerized system?
Occhiuzzi: Yes, when we notified parents today, we activated several of our communication tools. Of course our parents were subscribed to e-news, so those parents received emails. We also activated our emergency phone notification system, so parents did receive phone calls. We posted information on the websites, the main district website and all the campus websites as well. We were able to get the information out within about a 10 minute window once the decision was made that we need to evacuate.
Reporter: John Foster [with the Williamson County Sheriff's Office] said this campus was big. Do you know how big this building is?
Occhiuzzi: I can get you the square footage. Our middle schools can house about 1,500 students. This school in particular [Deerpark MS] had 1,000. Live Oak Elementary had about 600. They are very large facilities so it is going to take some time to go through every single classroom and every single locker.
Reporter: Can you talk about how often you guys get these threats?
Occhiuzzi: Unfortunately, bomb threats for schools are common. You see them a lot throughout the school year, especially at the secondary level, middle and high school level. To have one at this level where you're bringing in the bomb dogs, that you don't see every day. But of course, we have some great partnerships with Williamson County and we're glad they're bringing in the resources needed to make sure our school is safe.
Reporter: I can imagine a parent at home saying, "If y'all had some evidence at all [inaudible]" What would you say to that person?
Occhiuzzi: Throughout the school year we do receive numerous threats, and we always make sure we investigate them. We're very quick to investigate them. If we were to evacuate and close down school with the first threat we receive, kids would be calling in threats non-stop, especially during test time. What our obligation is, is to make sure that we have gone through the campus to make sure there is nothing out of the ordinary, that there is no specific packages. We did that, and I do feel very comfortable that we moved very quickly this morning, and we evacuated the campus as soon as we believed the threat was a little bit higher than what it was this morning.
Reporter: What were the kids told?
Occhiuzzi: The kids were told that the Williamson County Sheriff's Office was investigating a threat to the campus. The students do know that it was a bomb threat. We also told the students that we were of course taking them to another location, just because there really was no way to have the kids be outside for several hours. We wanted to get them inside a facility and just get them away from this area since there is a lot of open land around this campus. The students are completely safe. We have no students that are panicking. We have great teachers and staff that are with the students. They got to go with their entire school team. There's not a lot of new faces for these kids. All it is, is all these students from one school are in a big room together, so they're okay.
Reporter: Is it test time?
Occhiuzzi: No it is not test time. Well, I don't know if they had a test, but it is not the typical TAKS testing time.
Reporter: What are the kids doing over there?
Occhiuzzi: I don't know yet. I can call.
Reporter: Were they told by their teachers in each individual classrooms? Or was it an announcement over the PA system?
Occhiuzzi: What we did first was that we made sure our employees knew what was going on because we count on our teachers and our staff to share the information with our students and calm any anxieties that the kids may have. The teachers were instrumental in sharing the message with the students in addition to our principal, our leadership at both campuses, were very instrumental in making sure things went very smoothly. Our ability to move 1,600 kids within a 30 to 45 minute time frame is a good testament to how our employees move quickly.