Over the past several days, a couple of schools in Columbia County have suffered from anonymous calls regarding bomb threats.
Just last Friday, a bomb threat was reported at Greenbrier High School and deputies from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office had to inspect the school after students were evacuated.
On Halloween, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office was forced to investigate another bomb threat at Evans Middle School. Deputies and fire personnel arrived on the scene to search the school.
Fortunately, in both cases, law enforcement searched the schools and found nothing suspicious. Students and faculty were allowed to return to their classrooms and try to pick up where they left off.
But, needless to say, not only are these fake bomb threats a major inconvenience to the schools and law enforcement, but such false bomb threats are illegal.
This week, Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle wanted students to know that bomb threats are no joke. They aren’t a funny prank. And they aren’t harmless ways to get out of tests or escape from classroom work.
Whittle wanted both students and parents to know his department takes such illegal action very seriously.
On Oct. 31, a 13-year-old student at Evans Middle School was arrested and charged with making terroristic threats following that morning’s bomb threat at the school.
The seventh-grader is now facing a felony charge.
When the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office posted information about the arrest of the 13-year-old on Facebook this week, it definitely got some reactions.
“Really? Everyone just take a minute to think about things you did when you were 13,” one man posted. “Things that you may or may not have gotten caught for. A felony? For a crime that, while not truly victimless, did zero harm to any other person or property. Now I’m not defending the kid, he needs his tail whooped, a little guidance, and a good year of community service. Let’s ruin his next whole summer, not the rest of his life.”
In response, one woman posted, “Two words, zero tolerance.”
One man pointed out that being charged with a felony and being convicted of a felony were two totally different things.
“They are going to make an example out of him,” another person posted.
Several mothers of students posted that these frequent bomb threats are far from funny for the staff, students and parents.
“If we don’t start punishing these kids, it will continue. Harsh punishment is needed at this point,” one woman wrote. “We have to stop this craziness and kids fearing for their life during school hours. I hope all these kids that think it is cool to draw attention to themselves see this. He is getting his attention…”
Another woman said this 13-year-old student wasted taxpayers’ time and money by calling in a fake bomb threat.
“The kid is 13, old enough to know what would happen but still stupid enough to think they wouldn’t get caught,” she wrote. “Creating a panic and invoking fear, misusing 911 system and others are really not humorous. He should be charged with a felony.”
A former teacher said she couldn’t agree more.
“It may be somewhat harsh but it’s not victimless,” she wrote. “Ask the 2,000 kids at Greenbrier High School plus 150 staff who sit out in the football stadium for three hours EVERYTIME one is made. I taught one year in Richmond county and we had at least two a week.”
But some people still believed the 13-year-old was being severely punished with a felony charge.
“A punishment needs to fit the crime. He didn’t set a bomb, he played a very dangerous and not funny prank in which nobody got hurt,” one man wrote. “That’s like saying zero tolerance for speeding, which can be more deadly than a bomb threat, getting caught and getting a felony that ruins your life. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime.”
Whatever opinion the public has about bomb threats, the fact is making such threats is a very serious crime with heavy criminal penalties.
Laws obviously differ from state to state, but, generally speaking, people calling in fake bomb threats should expect to be charged with a felony.
Not too long ago in Statesboro, a 12-year-old student was taken into custody for making several bomb threats that forced four schools to temporarily shutdown.
And while these students are juveniles, Georgia has recently relaxed some of its laws regarding juvenile offenders.
In 2013, the media was allowed in the courtroom of a Clayton County case involving a 14-year-old high school student who made three bomb threats against his school, according to Clayton News-Daily.
Even though some Columbia County citizens felt a felony charge was extreme, others said it was up to the parents to teach their children to take law enforcement seriously.
Otherwise, the students will have to face the consequences.
“Parents need to be parents again,” one woman posted. “Teachers can’t do it all.”