Opinion: Parents play a role in stopping school bomb threats

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It had been a quiet week since the Horry County Schools, law enforcement, and court officials released a public service announcement about the rash of bomb threats in our schools and the consequences they hold, but this afternoon there was another.  My theory is that the message needs to go one step beyond the students and to their parents and youth leaders.

There was much reported about the points hit during the conference and I left feeling fully convinced of the ramifications students faced for making a threat.  They will be incarcerated, the location determined by age.  There will, minimally, be suspension, but expulsion is likely.  The cost to the school system is determined by the salaries and resources used during the time the school schedule is disrupted due to a threat and is dependent on the size of the school.  It was reported that the cost per hour for Carolina Forest High School exceeds $6700 per hour.  Sandra Rhodes of Horry County Police Department told us that each time her officers and other details have to attend to a bomb threat it costs the department as much as $5000.  As students near their end-of-year testing, instructional time is almost more important than ever.  What may have first been conceived as a prank is now turning into a very costly joke with real consequences.

During the press conference a lesser reported detail was covered by all speakers - parents hold responsibility too.  After their child is involved in such a threat, there will be bail, fines, and lawyers' fees.  There will be meetings and proceedings, which likely lead to time off from work. There is even talk about restitution for the costs to county.   

Beyond the immediate, you'll have a child with a criminal record who will have difficulty getting into college if he or she is able to complete the work required for a high school diploma.  The impact is far-reaching and lifelong...all for a prank.

As a parent, this situation falls squarely on my "Things I don't want for my child" list. 

Today, shortly after Whittemore Park Middle School aired the public service announcement produced by Horry County Schools, it had to be evacuated and searched due to a bomb threat called in from inside the school.

Dear Parents:

In an effort to keep you informed about school events, I am contacting you to let you know that our school was evacuated for approximately one hour and fifteen minutes today. Shortly after showing students a video message about the damaging consequences of making threats to schools, a threat was called into the office from inside the school itself. In an abundance of... caution, we evacuated the school and followed our safety procedures. After the building and grounds were searched, we resumed our regular schedule.

We are actively investigating this incident. We hope you will encourage your child to come forward if he or she has any information about today’s event. Please join us in reminding students that threats to schools can come with severe consequences, including a one-year (12-month) expulsion from school, arrest, and sentences served at the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice, or jail, upon conviction.

Our school is safe. Today’s incident gave us an opportunity to practice our procedures. We appreciate the patience and cooperation of our students, staff and parents and we will do everything possible to identify the person or persons responsible for making the threat. Thank you for your support.

Robbie Watkins
Whittemore Park Middle School

- Whittemore Park Middle School on Facebook

Parents and youth leaders, we do a pretty good job of warning our children about the risks associated with smoking, drinking, drugs, and sex.  But are we clearly enough spelling out the risks of threatening your school with a bomb, founded or not?  Say these words to them.

The trouble you will find yourself in for making a bomb threat at school is trouble I can't get you out of.  It comes with a minimum jail sentence, which means you will go to jail.  No amount of "but he's a straight A student" or "she's never been in trouble before" will affect that.  If you think you'll get away with it, you're wrong.  Law enforcement is assigning detectives to these cases, which means it is part of someone's job to find out who is responsible.  Your bad decision could follow you the rest of your life.

Seniors who are involved will not graduate.  Those under the age of 18 will find themselves in the hands of the Department of Juvenile Justice until their 21st birthday.  Those over 18 will head to J. Reuben Long.  

Those who know about potential threats, have heard rumors, know details about a past threat, or have any information at all are urged to take an active part in stopping these incidents before or after they happen or be held responsible.  Students can talk with teachers or administrators in their school or call 915-SROS and email SROtips@horrycounty.gov to make a confidential report.

Each threat must be taken very seriously as the one time it's not, it could be real.  The costs of these threats isn't going down, thus the punishments being sought are not lenient. 

Parents and youth leaders, talk to your kids.   Tonight.  And be specific.  Then tomorrow, do it again.  It's sort of like serving them vegetables - it takes a few times to really get in.

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