Police charge 2 teens in Halifax high school bomb threat case

J.L. Ilsley High School in Halifax was evacuated this week due to a bomb threat. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
J.L. Ilsley High School in Halifax was evacuated this week due to a bomb threat. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

Two teens are facing mischief and threats charges related to a bomb threat this week at a Halifax high school, the latest in a rash of such incidents that have plagued schools in the region for more than a month.

Halifax Regional Police said Friday that since April 1, there have been 25 incidents where messages about explosive devices have been left in schools in the Halifax region.

The two teens, a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old, are being charged for an incident Tuesday at J.L. Ilsley High School. They are due to appear in Halifax youth court at a future date.

The school's principal said in an email to parents that the threat was written in a washroom. Police were called, the school was evacuated, but the threat was "unfounded."

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education said last week that many recent bomb threats have been handwritten in school bathrooms, while others have been called in anonymously.

Student suspensions

Lindsey Bunin, a spokesperson for the school district, said Friday that in several cases the schools have figured out who was behind the threats. Those students have faced consequences, including suspension.

Halifax Regional Police Const. John MacLeod said he anticipates more charges will be laid.

Bunin said there is hope the cycle of bomb threats is nearing an end, noting there's been none in the last two days.

The incidents don't appear to be connected, she said, although social media has likely played a role in circulating the idea of making a bomb threat. Schools continue to treat bomb threats seriously and don't simply assume it's another copycat case, she said.

However, officials have modified how they react, using a fire-drill approach where students are evacuated but then return to class "fairly quickly" once police deem it safe, Bunin said. It's a step away from early incidents where students were dismissed for the day.

"I know in one case, they discovered a threat, quickly determined who the student was — another student came forward and said, 'I know who just wrote that' — and they were able to question that student and then the evacuation wasn't even required," Bunin said.

Impact on some students

Stacey Rudderham, with the group Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education, said she wants schools to get to the bottom of why some students are making false threats, and the reasons they may not want to be in school.

Many students may take bomb threat evacuations in stride. But Rudderham said it's important to remember what impact it might have on a student who has experienced real violence in their life.

"There are students who have come here from other countries to escape situations where bombs are a real thing, and here we are in Nova Scotia having to deal with a threat of a bomb in one of the most important places in a child's life and is supposed to be a safe place," she said.

MacLeod said "clusters" of false bomb threats have happened before in Halifax. He said he didn't know what is motivating the threats, but said young people are sharing information through social media.

He said when officers are called to a bomb threat they check the schools, a "time-consuming" process that takes them away from other police work.