Article Comment 

Slimantics: Bomb threats are not harmless pranks


Slim Smith



What is it about Columbus kids and bomb threats? 


This morning, for the ninth time since the school year started, school was disrupted while school and law enforcement investigated yet another bomb threat, this one at Stokes-Beard Elementary School. Wednesday, a bomb threat was made at Columbus High School. Tuesday, two bomb threats were made at Columbus Middle School. That's four threats in three days. 


Fortunately in none of the cases, has the threat been real. Someday, though, it may be. That's why every threat has to be investigated as though it were the real thing.  


Unthinkable tragedies unfold on school campuses with alarming frequency. Wednesday, a student at a Pennsylvania high school went on a stabbing/slashing spree that injured 21 people, including a police officer assigned to the school.  


None of the bomb threats have turned into tragedies, thankfully.  


Perhaps the young perpetrators assume that false alarms are harmless. But that is hardly the case. First, the threats are disrupt the learning process, which admittedly might not cause these kids to lose much sleep at night.  


But there are other costs the students may not consider when they make these kinds of threats. Each time a threat is made, school and law enforcement must respond and investigate. The FBI is required to respond and a K-9 unit must be brought in to search the school grounds. That amounts to quite an expense in man hours, time that would otherwise be devoted to protecting the community from real threats. 


I do not believe that there is likely any malicious intent by the students who call in the threats. Rather, I suspect they view it as a harmless prank. 


The school district will soon hold a meeting with parents to talk about just how costly and disruptive these acts really are. School officials are fed up with this sort of nonsense. Expect anyone who is caught making these kinds of threats to be dealt with in the most severe manner. 


It has to stop. Period. 


I don't believe these are bad kids. I believe these are kids who fail to understand that what they are doing are not harmless pranks. 


Let's face it: Pranks are what kids do sometimes. 


At least, it was what I did as a kid. 


Where I grew up, there was a little diner called "Grady's 10-cent Hamburgers," a popular place for really cheap (and really small) hamburgers. Grady's also had a big plastic cow that was bolted to its roof. Well, under normal circumstances, it was bolted to the restaurant roof. Often, though, the cow would turn up in odd places -- the roof of the high school, in the middle of the field at the football stadium, in someone's front yard. 


Likewise, the famed "Tupelo Meteorite" often left its place of honor on a pedestal in front of a building supply store to make guest appearances at various places around town. 


The meteorite was discovered in a farmer's field in the 1920s and was quite the conversation piece. In the 1980s, a NASA scientist who was traveling through town, saw the meteorite and asked if he could take a tiny sample to his lab in Houston, Texas, to examine it. He did. It turned out the meteorite was just a big rock. Even so, the "meteor-not" retained its rock star status, you might say. As a result, it was always being rock-napped. A few "officials" would frown and talk about how taking the cow or the meteorite was as serious matter. But most everybody else got a chuckle out of it. It was a harmless prank and chalked up to the mischief that so routinely accompanies youth. 


Now, I'm certainly not advocating that Columbus kids go around stealing people's plastic cows. But if youthful energies must sometimes turn to mischief -- as it surely will despite the protests of adults -- I urge kids to consider what they are doing.  


Clearly, bomb threats are not harmless, but even if they were, it's a pretty lame, unimaginative form of mischief. It requires no feat of skill, has no comedic value and will score no points with any female student the perpetrator might be trying to impress. 


It's dumb. It's harmful. It's illegal. School officials will be making that point abundantly clear. 


The bomb threats must end now. 


Plastic cow-napping is a price I'd be willing to pay, given the circumstances.


Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]


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