West Salem school district, police department to review procedure following bomb threat

A bomb threat forced hundreds of students and staff to evacuate West Salem High School Monday. The district’s elementary and middle schools were put on lockdown as a precaution.

West Salem School district officials declined to say how or when they received the threat. But a law enforcement official said he was notified of the incident around 8 a.m.

“Our job is to make sure people stay safe and so that’s why you take threats credibly and you try to get to the bottom of it,” said Troy Gunderson, superintendent for the school district of West Salem.

The police department responded to the scene and a bomb-sniffing dog from the La Crosse Police Department was brought in for a sweep of the building.

“We felt as a precaution, as a safety precaution, that it was better probably to evacuate and so we could do a more thorough search at that time,” said Charles Ashbeck, chief of the West Salem Police Department.

Staff and students were told over the announcement system that they would be going to the Boys and Girls Club inside the neighboring middle school.

“They were very clear that this was not a drill, this was kind of the real deal,” Ashbeck said.

But it’s the drills that make their response more efficient. Ashbeck said the department works with the district throughout the year to create crisis plans and train for many scenarios.

“We’re proactive that way to try to ensure the safest environment for our staff and students that we can,” Ashbeck said.

The district’s superintendent said now they’ll review how they can build upon what happened.

“What’s changing in our world, since I started in this business, is social media. And so how do we manage information so people feel safe until we get to the bottom of it,” Gunderson said.

Gunderson also expects to review the district’s communication with the police department and its evacuation procedure among other issues in preparation for a threat they hope never happens again.

The police department and school district officials urge anyone with information to report it. Please call the West Salem Police Department at (608) 786-0407.

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