Bomb threats surge in schools

Chris Thelen/Staff
Confiscated cell phones are stored at the Richmond County Board of Education offices. To deter called-in bomb threats, students are prohibited from carrying phones at school.

Bomb threats, evacuations and hours of wasted school time have again become commonplace in Richmond County.

 

Eight threats were called in to Richmond County schools over a two-day period last month, according to the sheriff's office. That includes three in one day at Glenn Hills High School. As of Feb. 1, there had been 51 threats this school year, and there are still almost four months to go.

"Every time they had a bomb threat, the children get no education," said Ruben Monugian, who has a son who attends Morgan Road Middle School. "I think it's going to affect my son down the road."

After a fall semester with a string of bomb threats and interruptions, he said, the principal sent home a letter to parents to let them know and remind them that the rules forbid children from bringing cell phones to school. Most threats appear to be called in on cell phones.

He was alarmed that there were so many bomb threats in the first half of the year at Morgan Road Middle, but even more concerned that no one told him until the letter went home last month.

"I believe if they really took it seriously they would take time to inform us," Mr. Monugian said, noting that half the school year had passed by the time he received the letter.

Richmond County Interim Superintendent James Thompson said the issue of bomb threats is taken seriously.

"If they're students, we're going to put them out. If they're not, we're going to prosecute them," he said. "We are concerned, and we have to react to each one."

Mr. Thompson said the school board's zero tolerance policy states that pupils will be expelled for a year and placed at the alternative school for another year if they're found to be making bomb threats.

That doesn't make up the time lost as a result of the threats. The purpose of a bomb threat is to disrupt school, and that time won't be recovered, he said.

Bomb threats are up in Columbia County schools as well, according to Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Sandra Carraway, although the sheriff's office says the threats have remained steady.

Capt. Steve Morris of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office said it takes at least an hour and could take up to two hours to evacuate and check a school after a bomb threat.

"In most cases, these threats involve evacuation," he said. "When you evacuate a school, you are obviously stopping any learning that is taking place. ... Aggravating is certainly an adjective to use. Disappointing is another."

Capt. Morris said since August 2004 there have a been a total of 25 threats made.

A request for information on bomb threats in Aiken County schools was not answered.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

BOMB THREATS BY SCHOOL

A look at the number of threats reported this school year in Richmond County as of Feb. 1:

Morgan Road Middle........18

East Augusta Middle........9

Murphey Middle........9

Glenn Hills High........5

Butler High........2

Glenn Hills Middle........2

Hephzibah High........2

Sego Middle........2

Cross Creek High........1

Josey High........1

Total........51

Source: Richmond County Sheriff's Office


RISING THREATS

After a sharp decline, schools in Richmond County have experienced an increase in bomb threats.

2004-05: 78

2005-06: 20

2006-07: 51*

* As of Feb. 1

Source: Richmond County Sheriff's Office