Fairfax County's public school system is rethinking its crisis communications after an investigation into a bomb threat at Annandale High School "went wrong."
Barbara Hunter, the assistant superintendent for communications and community outreach, said school administrators will no longer wait for the principal's OK before getting involved in situations like bomb threats.
"Our huge takeaway in our [corner] is we will not sit and wait to see if help is needed," Hunter said at a school board work session on Monday.
In March, a former Annandale High School student was arrested for calling in a fake bomb threat at 4:30 a.m. to TV station WJLA. School officials expected the situation to be cleared up by the time students arrived for class.
But a sweep of the high school by robots and bomb-sniffing dogs was still ongoing at 7:20 a.m., and some students were kept sitting on buses for more than three hours, while others were sent home.
Because the school buses were holding high school students, they couldn't go pick up elementary school students, delaying 18 nearby elementaries. Meanwhile, parents didn't receive alerts from Fairfax County Public Schools for hours.
"The feeling was, 'Why are we not getting a Keep In Touch [email] from Fairfax County?'" said Sandy Evans, who represents Annandale High School as the Mason District representative to the school board.
Hunter said other factors complicated those events, such as their contact at the police station being on vacation.
"They say when an airplane goes down it's usually the result of multiple failures, not just one," she said. "I think that's an excellent example of that."