Bomb threat leads to evacuation at State Large Group Speech contest

The Red Oak Speech team was able to finish competition at the State Large Group Speech Contest in Ankeny at the Ankeny Centennial High School after an unexpected delay during the event Feb. 3 when the building was suddenly evacuated.
 Student support coordinator an coach Kelsey Mangold said things started out fairly innocuously, and it was a very typical day to begin with.
“We had a very nice schedule where our four events were fairly close together, but not so close that we thought we might miss an event, so it was going to be a very wonderful schedule, and we were looking forward to it,” Mangold said.
However, Mangold said they were nearing the end of the event when a call came through to leave the building.
“We were all in one performing room waiting for our last event to perform when an announcement was made over the intercom that we all needed to evacuate the building immediately. We were told to leave everything and go. There was a second announcement made immediately after once again telling us to evacuate and letting us know that the contest would be postponed,” commented Mangold.
Mangold said they didn’t get any official word on the reason for the evacuation, and were finally able to get details from a responding law enforcement officer.
“It took about an hour and a half before we could talk to someone who knew what was going on. We heard several different things. One said we should leave as the contest was cancelled. We also heard that we’d be able to re-enter the building in about 20 minutes, and then we heard that it was just postponed, and heard again that it was going to be cancelled. We didn’t know what to believe,” advised Mangold. “We ended up asking an officer who told us that there was a threat to safety, so no one was going to be allowed back inside of the building no matter what was left inside, and that we should not expect to get back into the building any time soon.”
Despite the unexpected announcement and evacuation, Mangold said all the speech students behaved admirably.
“Thinks were very orderly. No one was freaking out or got too afraid. The evacuation was very calm. Very few people were running. The main thing was when we got outside. Kids had been ready to perform, so they were in dresses and dress clothes and no coats. Some of them didn’t have their phones. Thankfully, the parents and grandparents were able to put the kids in their vehicles since they had their car keys so they could stay warm. The kids handled things really well. They were very patient and made the best out of a situation where we really didn’t know what was going on or what the end product would be,” explained Mangold.
In addition to leaving behind some cell phones, some of the kids in costume were also left without purses and wallets.
“We had multiple kids who left their money and phones and everything else behind, including things they needed for the next day. A number of them planned on going to a field trip to see the musical “Beetlejuice” on Feb. 4 and lamented that their phone, keys, or dress clothes were locked in the gym. They ended up still going on that field trip but it was an interesting experience.”
With so many kids lacking cell phones, Mangold said the ROHS Speech Facebook page was implemented to spread the word about the situation.
“We heard from several other coaches and schools that there were things all over Facebook. We wanted to make sure we had something posted that everyone was safe and that we were okay because not all of us had phones. We wanted people to know if they couldn’t get a hold of their child or friend that we were all safe, so we posted about it quickly as the story was spreading all over social media.”
Another unexpected side effect of the evacuation was that Mangold and co-coach Josie Wiser were stranded.
“The kids came back on Feb. 3, but the keys to the school vehicle were locked in the gym, and the parents did not have the room for myself or Josie, so we did not have a ride. We also knew we should stay in Ankeny if we were allowed to get our things on Feb. 4. It didn’t make much sense for us to find a way back to Red Oak that Saturday just to come back on Sunday. We hoped we’d be allowed into the building on Feb. 4,” said Mangold. “We ended up getting a ride from a volunteer at contest who lived in the area. They dropped us off at a hotel so we ended up spending the night in Ankeny. When we were told that we would be allowed back into the building on Feb. 4, we got our keys, brought out all of the kids’ belongings, and then we left Sunday morning Feb. 4.”
The unidentified person who made the threat was found after an investigation and the threat was later determined to be not credible, allowing for people to reenter the school, and everyone was thankfully safe.
“We were very thankful that no one was ever in mortal danger, and were also thankful and grateful we had the parents and family we had with us that day so they could help take care of the kids while Josie and I took care of what we needed to do as coaches to handle the situation. I’m incredibly grateful for everyone involved and incredibly grateful that everyone was okay,” stated Mangold.
Mangold said this is the first time she’s ever been in a situation like this with students.
“I’ve been doing these for eight years, and we’ve never had an experience like this. The worst thing we’ve encountered is the weather or COVID-19. Those have been the only uncontrollable events that have altered the flow and structure of a speech contest. Otherwise it’s been very typical, structured, and essentially routine,”  Mangold commented.
Mangold said of the two groups left, one had to perform again as they had not gotten ratings and had to perform again, and the other had not performed at all.
“We submitted one performance electronically because we were able to do that, and we took one group with us in person back to Ankeny on Feb. 5. They were able to perform for the same judges, which is important because the next step after state is All State, which is essentially a festival of the best of the best, and includes everyone from the entire state. They really try to make that as fair as possible. The Iowa High School Speech Association really did a nice job of trying to take the situation and still create equitable chances for all the groups and performers,” Mangold advised.
Final results were as follows:
• Ensemble with Connor Knight and Tony Filpi entitled “The Battle of Brown and Whitmore,” 2, 2, and 2.
• Reader’s Theatre with Kaz Jackson, Cade Lovell, Auden Coover and substitute performer Ethan Strunk entitled “Emergency Protocol,” 1, 1, and 1.
• Radio Broadcasting with Ella Johnson and Grace Goldapp entitled “Murderous Minds,” 1, 2, and 1.
• Musical Theatre with Grace and Josie Goldapp entitled “Wicked,” 1, 1, and 1.
“Grace and Josie are also being honored at Large Group All State Speech Festival at Iowa State on Feb. 17. They worked many hours to refine their performance, and we are so proud of them. If you see Josie or Grace, please congratulate them because this is a huge honor,” commented Mangold.

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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