Schools Needn't Be Victims

Anne Arundel County: Aggressive Posture Might Help Discourage Recurrent Bomb Threats.

April 24, 1997

CALLING IN BOMB THREATS to schools seems to have become all the rage in Anne Arundel County. Arundel High has received four this year, including one yesterday along with Arundel Middle. Old Mill High received two in one week.

Irresponsible people are preying on schools and their students. These threats are now interfering with the students' ability to learn.

After some rather confused reactions to threats earlier this spring, the school system has been responding effectively. Police are notified immediately, and search dogs begin their work within minutes after calls are received.

Yesterday, the 900 pupils of Arundel Middle were evacuated, the buildings searched and students returned to class within 45 minutes, a record. The Arundel High students were dismissed.

Superintendent Carol Parham deserves credit for recognizing that in several instances, the system had reacted poorly to these malicious and cowardly bomb scares.

With the cooperation of the police and EMS/fire/rescue departments, she developed an effective response.

Stopping these pranksters from taking advantage of the schools is a difficult task. Schools cannot ignore the threats. The callers know that. Evacuations and searches take time, particularly when dealing with large institutions such as high schools. Rather than leave students outside for hours, administrators in some cases have dismissed classes early and students have lost valuable instructional time.

School officials must take steps to ensure that these students are not victimized. The perpetrators, when caught, will face jail time and fines up to $10,000. And if it turns out the callers were students thinking their prank can shorten the school year for themselves or their peers, administrators must make it clear that lost class time will be made up -- by extending the school day or adding days to the end of the year.

Such action will impose hardship and inconvenience on innocent kids, but a tough school response may embolden students to discourage classmates from pulling these pranks. It may also encourage them to report information to school authorities or police. Sending an aggressive and tough message might help put a halt to an intolerable situation.

Pub Date: 4/24/97

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