BOMB threats created a dramatic start to the school year for hundreds of children on the Mornington Peninsula.
Pupils at Mornington Park, Eastbourne and Sorrento primary schools spent a terrifying afternoon evacuated or in lockdown after their schools received the hoax calls – most via automated messages.
For many pupils it was their second day of school.
By Friday the perpetrators appeared no closer to being caught, with senior police still saying the calls appeared designed to “cause disruption and attract media attention”.
Education Minister James Merlino said 20 schools across Victoria had received threatening phone calls alluding to bombings and shootings.
Sorrento Primary School principal Meg Dallas said her 320 pupils had been evacuated to the nearby community centre for one hour after staff received an automated call.
She said the school’s emergency management plan covered bomb threats, and staff and pupils had responded “fantastically”.
“They moved quickly and quietly to the community centre and the members there were magnificent, too,” Ms Dallas said.
Eastbourne Primary School principal Steve Wilkinson said a hoax call at midday saw the evacuation of 400 pupils to the “safest place – the school oval. The safety and welfare of our pupils is our priority”.
“We told the children straight out that we had an emergency and then enacted our management plan; the staff and pupils were magnificent and the whole process went like a drill, very smoothly,” Mr Wilkinson said.
The adjacent Seawinds Community Hub provided drinks and toilets.
Mornington Park Primary School principal Bev Dadds said an automated call at 12.15pm alerted them to the threat.
“I rang the police and made an emergency announcement to staff asking them to gather the children and class rolls and assemble on the school oval,” Ms Dadds said.
“We grabbed a big box of fruit on the way. When we had made sure everyone was there we called the education department and the police who were amazing; we felt that we were really being supported.
“The children and the staff were calm and we had all our procedures in place.”
Ms Dadds said the 195 children were on the oval for 90 minutes. Parents were notified and many collected, while others were taken inside after being given the all clear.
A review of practices in the wake of the emergency has meant the school now has keys to the adjacent Narambi reserve and Currawong community centre toilets. Mornington police visited the school again next day.
Chief Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said that although the threats were a “hoax scenario” each one needed to be taken seriously.
“It may be that a particular call is not a hoax,” Mr Ashton said on Tuesday.
Federal and Victoria Police had been investigating the calls since Friday week. They were not regarded as terrorist-related, although federal police were investigating their “international elements”.