'Hefty' threat fines sought

The backlash against Richmond County students who called in a slew of bomb threats will soon be reaching the state capital.

When it does, parents could find the threats costly and their children could find themselves without a driver's license.

To quell the threats, State Sen. Ed Tarver, D-Augusta, has drafted legislation that holds parents accountable, by hitting them in the pocketbooks, each time a threat is made against a school. According to the draft of the legislation, which hasn't been filed, parents would be fined $5,000 for each threat if the courts find parents "deprived" the child by not providing reasonable supervision and care.

The money would reimburse emergency officials for the costs of responding to the threats, and the remainder would go to the school system.

That's a "hefty" fine, Richmond County Superintendent Dana Bedden said Tuesday night when discussing the proposal with school board members at a committee meeting.

But board members are recommending the penalties be even stiffer, asking the senator to also revoke the driver's license of any student caught making a bomb threat.

After endorsing the get-tough measure, board members also showed support Tuesday night for Dr. Bedden's plan to require students to make up the time they miss during the constant interruptions.

If the threats continue, the superintendent could lengthen the school day, require students to attend class on professional learning days or extend the school year into the summer for the schools where threats occurred.

There had been few bomb threats throughout most of the school year, but in January they "jumped off the charts," Dr. Bedden said. Earlier this month, however, the threats grew quiet.

Since the Richmond County Sheriff's Office began tracking down callers making the threats, arresting them and detaining them, no threats have been called in, according to school officials.

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

IN OTHER BUSINESS

In other actions taken in committee that will now be brought before the full board, board members:

- Allowed Historic Augusta Inc. to inspect schools that might be listed as surplus to assist in their sale and preservation

- Agreed to change the school calendar to nine-week grading periods starting in the fall

- Approved the goals that Superintendent Dana Bedden will be graded on.