Columbia County's schools are serious about ending bomb threats.
In fact, they're so serious that they're putting in place punishments as tough as those enacted a full year ago in Richmond County.
What in the world took so long?
The fact is, Columbia County's possible penalties for bomb threats already included expulsion. In light of recent disruptions, five bomb threats already this year, school system officials made a good move to highlight and streamline the policy.
Now, instead of mushy finger-wagging about sending the suspect to tribunal en route to possible suspension or expulsion, the new policy succinctly recommends immediate suspension with "recommendation of expulsion."
Still, as much as it is needed, such tough talk isn't likely to scare off someone from writing a bomb threat on a bathroom wall, as someone did just two days after the tougher policy was announced.
Here are some ideas that just might be a deterrent:
Reveal their names.
When those making bomb threats are caught, they aren't just in trouble at school. They also are charged with a crime, generally, transmitting a false alarm, or making terroristic threats. But because of their ages, those making school threats are rarely publicly identified.
That should change. If they're older than 13, they should be charged as adults. Not only would that let them know that bomb threats aren't just harmless pranks, but taking away the protection of anonymity afforded by juvenile courts would help deliver the public shame such punks deserve.
Make them pay.
"They have no idea in this day and time what a bomb threat entails in resources," says Columbia County Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker. "Maybe we could keep a tally on the response costs and get that money back from whoever is responsible."
Remember: Because every bomb threat must be treated like an eminent explosion, police, fire and emergency medical services all respond. That's a lot of staff and expensive equipment tied up for a "prank."
How expensive? As an example, Tucker points out that the county pays $1,500 for every fire call the Grovetown Department of Public Safety answers outside the city limits. The multi-agency response to bomb threats is likely even more expensive, not to mention the massive toll on instructional time. The person making the threat should pay back every dime.
There were 12 bomb threats in Columbia County all year long 2005-06; already this year there have been five. These dangerous, expensive disruptions to our schools must stop.
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