Word of advice for people who might be tempted to make a threat against their school: It’s not going to end well for you.
That’s the message law enforcement and school officials wants students — and everyone else — to understand. Given the harsh reality that violence does occur at schools throughout the country, this is no laughing matter. And burdening police and prosecutors with having to sort through a slew of false threats is damaging on several levels.
Following the shooting threat at North Bend School District last week, people to need to pay heed to law enforcement's threat that there will be consequences.
“It’s been busy since returning to the normal schedule,” Darrell Johnson, principal at North Bend Middle School, where the threat was made, told The World in an April 14 article. “We have a lot of concerns from parents and kids have questions. Not only that but other issues below the surface have come up on kids who had their own personal safety issues, so we’re addressing those.”
The school psychologist and counselor have been on campus to help these students.
The threat was discovered on Tuesday morning by students who reported it to a substitute teacher. The graffiti read “shooting up the school tomorrow . . . BE READY!!” in a stall inside the sixth grade girls’ bathroom. The threat spurred an intense investigation from the North Bend Police Department, which led to the entire district shutting down and canceling classes on Wednesday.
The student was identified on Wednesday by police, and now she faces civil charges.
“There is a civil process, which has been referred to the prosecutor’s office,” Johnson said. “As far as the school goes for discipline, I can’t disclose that. I have a proposal and will give that to the superintendent to decide.”
Johnson recounted what happened from the school’s perspective, explaining why it took so long before NBPD was notified.
“When the report first came in, our assistant principal investigated with videos of footage from the hallway and handwriting analysis starting at 9 a.m.,” he said. “He identified the person he fully believed was responsible, who later made the confession.
“These are new days where, unless there’s absolute certainty that the threat has been resolved, we must continue the investigation. The administration has grown here. This was a transitional event from the old days when someone would write something like this and we’d investigate, let folks know it occurred and deal with it.”
Regardless, he added that now even if they think they have the right person, the police need to conduct their own investigation.
Social media makes it easy for students to send off a threatening message, but police have the technology to track the location of where those threats were made.
Officials nationwide say they have been overwhelmed with calls and tips following the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead. Some are from individuals who have a genuine tip to share, but others are blatantly fake threats. And law enforcement has an obligation to follow through on every tip. But don’t expect officers to be pleased when they realize someone has wasted their time.
So it’s a good thing law enforcement and school officials are treating these threats seriously. It’s far from funny to scare fellow students, parents and school staff for no reason, especially at a time when these fears are fresh in people’s minds.
That’s extremely disruptive and a waste of law enforcement’s time. Parents should talk to their children and make sure they understand the seriousness of such threats and the consequences. They should also actively monitor what their kids are posting online.
The number of false alarms are likely to dissipate in coming weeks, but any fake threat is one too many.