Bomb threat prompts Tamalpais High School evacuation

Ella Erwig and Sophia Buckholtz

On Nov. 30, 2022, at approximately 9:30 a.m., Tamalpais High School (Tam) was alerted of a bomb threat. The teachers were warned through a new notification system, Share911, that the district started using this school year. Students and staff were evacuated from their classrooms, first to their football field and later to the Mill Valley Community Center. Following the bomb threat, Tam sent out a message announcing the closing of the campus and told students not to return to campus to retrieve their belongings or vehicles. Spectators believe the threat was just a scare, although it is unconfirmed. Tam students returned to school the following day since no bomb was found on campus.

Tam junior Zoe Tokarski recalls the moment she found out about the threat, the quick exit from her classroom and the safety precautions that were taken.

“Our speakers are currently broken, so there wasn’t an announcement [over the loudspeakers]. Another science teacher came running into the classroom, asking our teacher if he had heard [about the threat]. Our teacher [then told] everyone to walk to the field,” Tokarski said.

Tokarski and her peers spent about 30 minutes lining up on the field. While waiting for further instructions, many students only had their phone with them, their backpacks still in classrooms. Soon after waiting, they walked over to the community center down the street from Tam.

Evacuating to the community center, Tam students find safety. (Photo courtesy of Zoe Tokarski)

Sydney Gottesman, a Tam senior, estimates the process from classroom evacuation to leaving school took about 45 minutes. Those 45 minutes were confusing and abrupt for Gottesman. 

“[When] we went to the community center [as an] entire school, there were cars honking, [almost saying,] ‘What are these kids doing?’” Gottesman said. 

The chaotic situation was familiar to many. Tokarski has experienced threats of violence in the classroom environment in the past at Mill Valley Middle School (MVMS). Gottesman also attended MVMS, and was a student when the school experienced a bomb threat.

She recalls her previous experience during an active shooter threat at Tam, and how it impacted her thoughts following the recent bomb threat. 

“We locked down in full active-shooter mode. It was really scary, [since we were] hiding under desks,” Gottesman said. “My initial thought was, ‘We need to take things like this seriously,’ but this happens so often, so I was kinda used to it.”

Tokarski reflects on how her experiences at MVMS caused her to not feel much towards the recent threat at Tam.

“Because [threats] have happened before, especially at MVMS, we’ve dealt with these situations a lot … I’m really desensitized to it,” Tokarski said. 

The immediate protocol at Tam addressing the threat left many students without their belongings and prevented students who parked on campus from driving off.

“Pretty much every class [except] my class left their stuff in their classroom, so the large majority of students [didn’t] have any of their schoolwork. Most kids probably [didn’t] have their laptops, and [couldn’t] do their homework,” Tokarski said. “If you parked on campus, you couldn’t go get your car.” 

Crossing the street, Tam students make their way to the Mill Valley Community Center. (Photo courtesy of Zoe Tokarski)

Tokarski expressed how she felt stressed for students who lived farther away and needed to find another way home.

Students were not the only people at Tam caught off guard by the bomb threat. Former Redwood teacher and current Tam Spanish teacher, Alberto Aparicio reflects on the moment he became aware of the situation at Tam. 

“I was teaching my first period of the day, and I learned about [the threat] because a student [who] went to the bathroom [returned saying] there was a bomb threat. I checked my email and my notifications, and I saw it right there,” Aparicio said. “[The notification system] was a new application, and I think it worked fine [this time], but we teachers keep our notifications silenced while [we are] teaching.”

Aparicio explained his sequence of emotions after receiving the information about the threat, and is appreciative of the school’s safety procedures. 

“I felt a little bit shocked because I couldn’t believe that it was happening in a school setting. At the same time, I felt well and safe because the school followed all the right safety procedures,” Aparicio said.

 As of Dec. 2, Tam has not released an official statement regarding the source of the threat. The school sent out an email with an announcement from the Mill Valley Police Department, but no message directly from the school describing the threat. Although there was no bomb found on campus, there was undoubtedly confusion following the announcement.