Bomb threats disturb Parham Continuing problem frustrates her, she says at forum

October 21, 1997|By Kristi E. Swartz | Kristi E. Swartz,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Anne Arundel County Superintendent Carol S. Parham says she is having nightmares about students at Old Mill High School standing in the rain while their school gets checked for a bomb.

"I am absolutely frustrated, and I don't know what to do," Parham said last night at a crowded forum of parents and others at Arundel High School. Parham is holding such informational forums throughout the county this fall.

Old Mill has received one bomb threat each week since schools opened Aug. 25, a parent in the audience said during the session with Parham. Students sometimes stand outside for more than an hour while police and bomb squads check the school, she said.

The Sun's policy is not to report on bomb threats unless a device is discovered or there is an injury or other extraordinary event related to the threat.

Parham said she will not hear of school officials ignoring the bomb threats, even as temperatures begin to drop.

"We do have children with fragile medical conditions," Parham said. "But if you are trying to get me to ignore them [the threats], you've got the wrong person."

Police have responded to 17 bomb threats in Anne Arundel County schools this fall. Between March 26 and June 3, county officials received 37 telephone or written threats and arrested 15 suspects.

"This is a community issue because we have our children doing it, or it's someone they know," Parham said. "They must turn them in at a rapid rate."

Telephones and dogs

Schools are tracing telephone calls, but Parham would not elaborate on the method. The county also has bomb-sniffing dogs investigating buildings more quickly, she said.

The county spent at least $421,000 last year to bus students home when schools were closed for the day for bomb-threat investigations, which include tracing telephone calls and collecting fingerprints.

Of the 15 suspects charged in the spring, all were 11 to 16 years old except for a 20-year-old man. The youths accused of making threats appear in front of a juvenile master, who is comparable to a judge in adult court.

A state law that took effect Oct. 1 makes a bomb threat a felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison instead of one year.

Most of last night's forum centered on the proposed fiscal 1999 budget, Parham also was asked about crowding at Arundel High School and other schools.

Crowding addressed

The school board is looking at ways to relieve crowding that has several schools at or beyond capacity, she said.

Parham said a new high school is not necessarily the answer. Students could be bused to other schools or share one school in split sessions, she said.

"Decisions have to be made, but there are no easy answers," she said.

Pub Date: 10/21/97

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