UNIVERSITY PARK –– Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) are helping University Park police analyze forensic evidence as they look for the person behind a string of threats at Highland Park High School.
Authorities have issued a $7,500 reward for any information leading to an arrest and conviction. Contact the University Park P.D. at 214.987.5354.
On Thursday, another threatening note was found in a bathroom, the sixth incident since Jan. 16. A text message sent to parents indicated that the threat is not credible and said school and after-school activities will continue as scheduled. Below is the text:
"Another threatening note was found at HPHS. We have no reason to believe it is a credible threat. We are continuing with the school day.
Armed police and FBI agents are on campus and have determined that it is secure and safe. See www.hpisd.org for more information."
On Wednesday, for a second day this week, students were released from school early. Administrators found a box of .22-caliber bullets in a bathroom, a discovery that followed another on Tuesday when a threatening note was found in another bathroom.
"It's not a joke anymore, it's not funny," said Maribeth Shipp, a senior.
The DNA and fingerprint evidence agents glean will be used to develop a profile of the person responsible for the threats, who will likely face felony charges.
Principal Walter Kelley said parents, staff, and students are growing tired of having the school day interrupted.
Parents met in a closed meeting Thursday night for more than an hour-and-a-half at a La Madeleine restaurant in Dallas. Many of the parents shied away from news cameras as they entered, but more than a dozen parents met in a back room and aired out concerns.
"It's affecting these kids emotionally, psychologically," said Kristi Kirkpatrick, a concerned mother. "So, I'm terrified."
"It's been pretty disruptive," said student Bowie Wynne. "All of my quizzes have been moved back a couple of days."
Wynne is among the 2,000 students at the school who have been affected by the crimes. Since Jan. 16, there have been five threats at the school; threatening notes were found four times in the same boy's bathroom. The box of bullets found Wednesday is the first time searches of the campus has turned up anything dangerous.
“They are, I would say, annoyed," Kelley said. "They are certainly frustrated, as we are, and trying to come to a positive resolution for this.”
Administrators acknowledge that it could be a hoax, but are quick to treat it otherwise, said superintendent Dr. Dawson Orr.
"It creates fear and anxiety in people, so it is a very serious matter and we are going to take it very seriously," Orr said. "The young person who's doing it, if they thought it was a hoax, they're going to find that there's a very serious consequence."
Investigators have been interviewing students captured on security cameras near the entrance to the bathrooms. So far, they have not determined who might be responsible.
"Whoever is doing this, I don't think they understand how scared the parents are. It's really hard," said Shelley Butler, who is among the parents who considered keeping their child out of school Thursday.
"Just because of what happened yesterday, I certainly wouldn't want anything to happen to him," Butler said.
School started Thursday without any incident. As a safety precaution, school officials have limited the number of entrances students can use to get into the school.
Administrators said they are taking the frequent threats seriously at this point.
“This is a criminal investigation,” said HPISD Superintendent Dr. Dawson Orr. “Let’s call it what it is -- it’s a criminal investigation. This just isn’t a school-discipline issue.”
School will be open again Friday with regular hours, but Kelly said there will be more police officers on campus. Officers will also have metal detecting wands to perform searches, if necessary, and students will continue to have restricted access to restrooms throughout the day.
Students are eager to put the situation behind them and move forward with the school year. Orr said he would be checking with state officials to learn whether missed days will need to be made up.