Bomb threats surge in schools

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

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.  Chris Thelen/Staff
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.

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

Comments (10) Add comment
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mgroothand
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mgroothand 02/08/07 - 11:54 am
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For every evacuation the

For every evacuation the school should add on 1/2 day to the school year. Since a bomb threat is made by a student at that individual school, he/she must stay in school longer and thus gains very little, taking away the incentive to call in a bomb threat

keysplease
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keysplease 02/08/07 - 04:55 pm
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That is such an idiotic idea.

That is such an idiotic idea. You're going to punish everyone in the school except the person who did it, because 9 times out of 10 they will not show up on that day, and make another threat to top it off.

Also, thanks to this publicity my daughter's high school had a bomb threat today. All these little punks want is to be able to brag that their threats put them in the paper. Stop publicizing these threats and do a little more detective work, please.

Casting_Fool
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Casting_Fool 02/08/07 - 09:09 pm
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Then again, you have the

Then again, you have the situation where your kid is falsely accused of having made a bomb threat (got to love bullies), apparently framed by an over-zealous RCBE administrator, arrested, and suspended. Had to face a tribunal, and then, oh joy, the possibility of felony charges in court. Got to give the tribunal credit for getting the truth revealed, but the bullies were never punished for what they did to my child. Had to take it to Senator Zell Miller to get my child's police record expunged.

Frankly, I don't think they need to take away the cell phones from the kids. RCBE should consider setting up a cell phone dampering system in each school, similar to those used in some hospitals and theaters, that kills all cell phone communications in a building. Then link it to the alarm system so that it shuts the damper off in a real emergency.

As long as the adults in a building carry and use cell phones, kids will, too. Welcome to the digital world.

wedged
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wedged 02/09/07 - 01:26 am
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I agree with casting fool,

I agree with casting fool, they should allow cell phones. my son was jumped within a few feet of school and if he hadn't had his cell phone on him and called me no one would have stopped to help him, no one came to his rescue. I got there and he was still on the ground bleeding. We only live a few minutes from school. Yes I know we violate policy but I fear for my kids. We've even had incidents in school and they've called me from school. Something should be done to allow them to keep them. They need to investigate more before they punish anyone for the bomb threats. They get carried away looking for someone to blame quickly, a scape-goat.

milkman65
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milkman65 02/16/07 - 02:06 pm
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To "casting fool " and

To "casting fool " and "wedged" the RCBE is always taking application for teaching positions. After you have applied and benn hired, get back with me on your stance about students having cell phones in school. Students do not only call their parents to be picked up after school or to bring in an assignment that they lefted at home but to come to the school and jump on you because you gave their darling child detention or a failing grade. Lets not forget to mention that many of the brawls that take place at school that involve both students and non student are organized through text messages.

lezniack01
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lezniack01 02/16/07 - 08:51 pm
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I say, homeschool them all

I say, homeschool them all and we wont have this problem.Now, im not saying everyone needs to quite their job or anything because there are a ton of programs out there that the child can work on their own for the most part. There are also programs that come with video teachers.Weigh the pros and cons. Dont worry about social developement.Just think of what they wont be learning. Also look into the huge homeschool groups in the Augusta area with plenty of things going on for tons of social activity.

bone
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bone 02/17/07 - 08:54 am
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milkman65, did you not read

milkman65, did you not read the other posts? there are dampening technologies that would prevent cell phone use (including text messages) on campus except in the event of an actual emergency. loved the "lefted at home" line, though.
regarding the bomb threats: adding the length of time to the school day is exactly what is needed. it isn't punishment; it is ensuring that the school day has adequate instructional time. i just hope there would be a way to compensate teachers for the extra time.

OUTSIDE THE BOX
1
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OUTSIDE THE BOX 02/17/07 - 12:34 pm
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" bone" I did see the post

" bone" I did see the post about the dampening technologies and I would not be opposed to such technology but some tax payers might. One less costly solution would be pay phone that the schools can control the hours of operation. They use this method in some Atlanta schools.

24601
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24601 03/24/07 - 10:31 am
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I am a student that attends

I am a student that attends Morgan Road Middle School and as of March 23rd 2007 we have had our 32nd bomb threat .Some days we evacuate the building and some days we stay in the building.I don't think its right for the students at Moragan Road to stay in the building because no one knows if the bomb threats are real or not.Life is to short to take a risk like that.Everytime we have a bomb threat the teachers and staff make comments like"yall the students know who is calling in the bomb threats so yall are going to stay on lockdown so you have to eat in the classroom and you can't buy ice cream or a drink out of the drink machine" and I'm saying that I don't know who is calling in the bomb threats so why should I have to suffer . It's just not fair. -7th grader in Coach Bishop's homeroom

Space Prophet
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Space Prophet 03/24/07 - 11:57 am
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we have had them at Evans

we have had them at Evans High Too, they dont even check the school, they evacuate us for about 20 min., call the cops, then we go back to class, they should have sent us home cause the last thing i want to do is go back inside after a bomb threat

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