That's precisely what bomb threats against schools do - and Richmond County is getting more than its unfair share. As of Feb. 1, the school district has received 51 such threats, and the academic year is far from over.
Richmond County Interim School Superintendent James Thompson is right to take every threat seriously, at a time in which Americans have soberly realized that bombs can - and do - go off practically anywhere.
"If they're students, were going to put them out," Thompson said. "If they're not, we're going to prosecute them."
But why draw the line at students? Columbia County schools don't. Its school system adopted a policy last fall recommending any offender for prosecution if someone makes a bomb threat.
If anything, an offending student of a threatened school should be punished more sternly than a nonstudent. Schools often are like families - relationships are formed and bonds are strengthened among teachers, staff, pupils and parents. For one of their own to effectively turn against the school is a stinging betrayal that should be answered harshly.
Richmond County schools struggle enough with the instructional time they have. It's unforgivable to have that squandered by malcontents with cell phones and idle hands.
Whoever the perpetrators are - students or not - throw the book at them. Throw the whole shelf.