This past Wednesday all students were evacuated from Sherman Elementary School when administrators were notified that someone had written “BOMB here” on a bathroom stall. I would not have been surprised if the message had been written “Bomb hear” or “Bom here”. Sherman Elementary only goes up to fourth grade and apparently has good spellers…assuming a student wrote the aforementioned note.
Earlier in the week Williamsville High School was evacuated for a similar inscription. This was the second time the high school had been evacuated over the last couple of weeks. Of course there has also been numerous evacuations of high schools in the Springfield area as well including multiple evacuations of Springfield High School and Southeast High School.
Threats of violence in an elementary school, junior high, high school or college is a serious matter. I have personally talked with teens who have made such threats and the answers as to why have been varied. Several have said they were only joking. Another indicated it was for attention. I suppose another motive would be to get out of school or to miss a test.
Regardless of why kids make these threats, the fact is that the toll it takes on schools, staff and students is significant. At the very least much instructional time is lost. Other damage includes the emotional toll it takes on our students (kids get scared when you rush them out of a building), the time and resources that law enforcement devotes to the problem, and the potential of the “boy who cried wolf” syndrome where our response to these threats might become lackadaisical at the wrong time.
Communication at all levels is essential in stemming the proliferation of these threats. At the macro level, law enforcement must make it clear that these threats are crimes, that they will be investigated, and that the perpetrators will be prosecuted. Administrators must make sure that their handbooks are up to date that appropriate consequences are in place for those students who make threats. Also, it is important for administrators to speak with their students about this topic. Students apparently need to be told in clear terms that calling in a bomb threat, leaving a bomb threat note, writing about a bomb on a wall, drawing a picture of a school exploding…those types of actions can lead to serious consequences. Parents would be wise to have that conversation with their children.
At Little Flower School we have had those conversations in our classrooms. We advise our students to let a teacher know if they hear of a threat of harm to others or self-harm. Our students become part of our safety. We all look out for one another. Again, clear communication among law enforcement, administrators, faculty, parents, and students will likely lead to a decrease in these events in the future.