April 11, 2014 10:32:34 AM
At roughly 8:30 a.m. today a bomb threat was reported at Joe Cook Elementary School.
It was the sixth bomb threat in four days. Members of the Columbus Municipal School board have called a special meeting Thursday to speak with law enforcement about their options.
There have been 10 bomb threats made in the district this school year. Nine have occurred in the past two weeks.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent Brandon Grant informed school officials of their options Thursday. Grant said while the student can be arrested and prosecuted on a local level, they cannot be federally prosecuted until they are 18 years old. However, their parents can be fined up to $20,000 if the student is convicted of making a false threat.
Grant also suggested evaluating the threat before evacuating the school. He quickly added, though, that "the FBI will never say don't evacuate."
In response to the threats, Interim Superintendent Edna McGill said parts of the buildings will be closed until the situation is under control. One of the bomb threats has been called in, another was yelled on the bus and the rest have either been written on paper or on bathroom walls. McGill said the district is reviewing security camera footage to identify culprits.
Three people have been arrested for three separate threats. All of them are juveniles. One suspect is 12 years old, McGill said.
Columbus Middle School, Columbus High School and Stokes Beard Elementary have been the targets of the threats. After each threat, the school is evacuated and local law enforcement, as well as the FBI, is called in.
Assistant Chief of Police Joe Johnson said as long as the threats continue, his officers will continue to respond.
"If we're called 10 times, we're going 10 times," Johnson said. "We know we've got a problem. We understand that. But it all depends on how we handle the problem and how we come together. Our kids depend on that."
Cindy Lawrence, director of Columbus Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency, agreed with Johnson saying, "When the call comes in we will always respond. It will never be on Fox News or CNN that something happened to this school because we didn't respond. We will always respond."
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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