After evacuations and lockdowns for bomb threat, three Pinellas schools all clear

Published December 1 2017
Updated December 1 2017

Two Pinellas County schools were evacuated and another was placed on lockdown after a bomb threat was called in Friday morning.

East Lake High and East Lake Middle schools, which share the same campus off of East Lake Road South and Bryan Lane, were evacuated for about two and a half hours until the schools received the all clear around 1 p.m. Normal school operations resumed.

Tarpon Springs High School was put on a lockdown for about one hour.

Tarpon Springs police spokesman Maj. Jeffrey Young confirmed a bomb threat call was made. He said the caller originally said he was at Tarpon Springs High and later said he was at East Lake High.

Pinellas County Sheriffís Office spokeswoman Deputy Jessica Mackesy said someone called 911 about a suspicious backpack around 10 a.m. She said nothing suspicious was found at East Lake High and no one is in custody.

Deputies swarmed the East Lake High and Middle school campus. The scene descended into a frenzy as students fled on foot to as far as a nearby 7-Eleven and parents came in droves to pick up their children.

East Lake High principal Carmela Haley said in a message to parents that the bomb scare was "connected to a suspicious backpack." She emphasized that the threat was not credible.

Donny Alexis, an East Lake High junior, said the bell was about to ring for lunch when the fire alarm went off.

Thinking it was a routine fire drill, he said students meandered toward the front gates, annoyed that the drill was cutting into lunch time. He said he saw an administrator run through a crowd of students telling them to run.

Alexis said he walked outside and saw deputies driving onto the walkway. Two other deputies parked near the bus loop. He looked up and saw middle school students screaming as they ran across the street. There were murmurs of a bomb threat.

"We got really scared and some people on the high school side started running and it started a domino effect," said Alexis, 16.

Alexis texted his mother to come pick him up.

"I guess there was a bomb threat at my school," he wrote. "Iím ok, but the hysteria is pretty groovy and the scary fleet of Sheriffs didnít help."

His mother, Rachel Alexis, arrived around 12:30 p.m. She was met with hordes of parents as school administrators tried to check IDs and sign students out.

"When you get there itís very tense, very different," said Rachel Alexis, 42.

Contact Colleen Wright at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643. Follow @Colleen_Wright.