HAMBLETON - Education officials and law enforcement leaders agree that the rash of bomb threats at local schools during the past year have disrupted learning and wasted time and money. Now they want the threats to stop.
Tucker County High School was evacuated twice in November, after the first bomb threats in recent memory were found at the school.
"We know the State Police and the prosecuting attorney are going to treat this very seriously," Tucker County Superintendent of Schools Eddie Campbell said recently. "Kids think it's funny - they think it's a joke. But a young man or woman just committed a felony and it's going to be treated that way."
Campbell said two complete days of instruction were lost to the pranks.
"We had to pay the employees for the day as well as cooks, bus drivers and service personnel who did not perform their duties," Campbell said. "Besides that, we had to pay extra time for the 10 to 12 bus drivers who were called to the scene."
Campbell said TCHS students were upset by the bomb threat.
"It was an unpleasant situation," Campbell said. "Students were upset by the inconvenience and the discomfort associated with the students actions. They sat on a bus for nearly five hours on Monday and they were not pleased.
"Students were also upset because they don't want this type of action reflected on their school," Campbell said. "Students are proud of their school and many expressed they feel this puts their high school in a negative light."
Campbell said that this action also disrupted the general
"We sent out a message about the bomb threat to the parents," Campbell said. "We continued to notify parents as we had updates.
It is not only upsetting to the students but also the parents. They worry about the safety of their kids, and want to pick them up, but that was not permissible."
Students and staff were evacuated at approximately 10:30 a.m. Nov. 18, the day of the second threat, and put on buses until 3 p.m., when the school was declared clear by law enforcement. Students and staff then re-entered the school to gather their belongings before going home, officials said.
On Nov. 15, students and staff were evacuated about noon, then sent home at 1 p.m. because of the first threat.
Campbell said Friday's threat was in the form of a stored message on a graphing calculator. He said Monday's message was a handwritten threat on a piece of paper.
TCHS Principal Jay Hamric said Monday's threat was found on top of a toilet.
Campbell said many agencies went into action following the threat.
"We had EMS staging in Parsons and Thomas and fire departments staged until we had the all clear from the State Police that we could get back into the high school," Campbell said. "They had to be there and be prepared to come to the high school should they be needed. That was hours people had to take time out of whatever it was they were doing. But these should be there for real things, not a joke a kid thought was funny."
Campbell said if the perpetrator is found and is a student, the offense is one of the highest disciplines
"That student would fall under the guidelines of Student Conduct 4373," Campbell said. "It would be recommended that they are expelled for 365 days."
If a student if found at fault for the bomb threat, they could be sentenced to spend time in an adjudicated youth facility like the Kenneth "Honey" Rubenstein Juvenile Center. Center counselor Tim Turner, who is also a Tucker County Board of Education member, described a typical day at the facility.
"Each day for those in the center is completely structured," Turner said. "There is no choice on what you eat, what you wear or what you do during the day."
Turner said residents wake at 6 a.m. and go to breakfast, followed by school from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. After school, it's back to the room for quiet time until 4 p.m. dinner. Following dinner, residents have an hour of recreation, groups and a short shower before lights out at 10 p.m.
"There are no cell phones, no dates, no social media," Turner said. "Everything is scheduled out for your life and that includes
Turner said he does not feel teens who make bomb threats are aware of the possible consequences.
"I do not think the responsible person realizes the seriousness of their actions," Turner said. "And if the person is placed in a center, it is not in their home county. They could be sent away and be five hours or more away from their home. And each facility is operated differently."