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Police: Bomb threats prompt evacuations at several Washington County schools

Police: Non-credible bomb threats prompt evacuations at 4 Washington County schools
Police: Non-credible bomb threats prompt evacuations at 4 Washington County schools 03:13

AVELLA, Pa. (KDKA) -- Multiple schools across the state and several in the Pittsburgh area got swept up in a hoax that now has the attention of state police and the FBI. 

All of the schools received bomb threats by email that prompted delays and evacuations.

Police said Avella, Burgettstown, Fort Cherry and California school district all received bomb threats and evacuated. None of the threats have been proven to be credible, state police said. 

"The K-9 units did come through and they cleared both buildings. They told us we're good to go for tomorrow," said Avella Superintendent Cyril Walther.

Avella Area Junior/Senior High School was one of several local schools that evacuated on Sept. 18, 2023, because of a bomb threat.  (Photo: KDKA-TV's Shelley Bortz)

Walther said Avella was one of four schools in Washington County that received a threat. 

"According to Pennsylvania State Police, this threat was made not only in our local area but other places in Pennsylvania as well," Walther said.

Walther said he was looking over emails Monday morning when he came across an unassuming one. When he opened it, he said he knew what he had to do.   

"We followed our plan. We contacted our school police officer, notified our administrative team and then moved students to a secure location," he said.   

State police immediately converged on the Avella campus with their bomb-sniffing dog while the students and faculty waited on the football field. When they didn't find anything, the campus was cleared and all 520 students were sent home. 

"It's extremely disruptive. I mean, as far as quality instruction, we got about a period in this morning before all this happened and the rest of the day educationally is gone," Walther said.

California Area School District said that it, as well as other local and national schools, received an email bomb threat on Monday morning. Local and state police deemed the threat non-credible, the district said in a social media post.

In a letter to families, Fort Cherry School District said it made the decision to evacuate after talking with local law enforcement and neighboring school districts. Fort Cherry said it takes all threats seriously and police are investigating. 

When Burgettstown Area School District received the threat, they relocated students and staff several miles from the school. Initially, students were going to return to school but officials decided to cancel and sent them home. Its campus has since been cleared and the threat deemed non-credible.

"On a positive note, our students are safe," Walther said.   

Meanwhile in Fayette County, the Albert Gallatin Area School District said on Sunday that it received an email with a bomb threat. James Bittner of Fayette County's Emergency Management Agency said the reports of bomb threats at the school were part of a nationwide incident. 

State police are investigating as well as the FBI. In a statement, the FBI said in part that it takes threats very seriously and while there is no information to indicate a credible or specific threat, they're helping local and state police as needed. 

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