Getting tougher with bomb threats Anne Arundel County: Make example of the next person caught disrupting the schools.

October 24, 1997

DESPITE LEGISLATION this year by the Maryland General Assembly that made a phoned-in bomb threat a felony punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and 10 years in prison, the threats and disruptions to Anne Arundel County schools continue. Since the start of classes two months ago, 17 bomb threats have been received. Multiple bomb scares bedeviled county schools last spring, and several subsequent arrests did not end the problem.

The time has come to make an example of the next person caught, under the state law that took effect this month.

The perpetrators may think of the threats as harmless. They are not. The county has incurred tens of thousands of dollars in expenses to dismiss schools early and pay for extra buses. In a system where resources are stretched thin, the more spent reacting to bomb threats means less for productive activities.

Students who must evacuate classrooms and spend an hour or two waiting outside for a search to be completed lose valuable instructional time. Teachers and administrators have to worry about keeping large numbers of young people under control while the police complete their searches. With the weather turning colder, the possibility of students getting sick increases.

Only one of the 15 people arrested to date for making bomb threats against the schools was an adult. The rest have been juveniles, which means the outcome of their cases are not generally publicized. This would be a good time to publicize the consequences of making these threats. Perhaps if the would-be pranksters knew the potential consequences, they might think twice.

Anne Arundel Superintendent Carol S. Parham has shown no sign of surrendering. Even though some parents suggest treating the calls as a hoax and ignoring them, Dr. Parham knows that the schools must treat each case seriously, evacuate the building and call in investigators. She is doing the right thing, and should not back down.

Only increased community pressure will end this annoying disruption. If students, teachers and especially parents convey disgust at this inappropriate behavior, the fad of phoned-in bomb threats eventually will pass.

Pub Date: 10/24/97

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