There was a time when a bomb scare at a school was more of a prank than a crime. Not anymore.
Times have changed, and emergency-response agencies must take every threat seriously. Case in point: the reaction to a bomb threat last week in the Lake Placid Central School District.
Some readers may remember back when they were in school and there was a bomb scare or someone pulled the fire alarm. Students and staff would go outside, stand around in the nice, sunny weather for 10 minutes or so, and go back inside. If the perpetrator was found, they’d get suspended from school or given a slap on the wrists. Making a bomb threat is no longer a simple prank, however, in the post-Columbine world.
On Friday, April 24, local authorities evacuated students, blocked off roadways, searched both the elementary and middle high schools and brought in bomb-sniffing dogs to search for a bomb that they eventually deduced didn’t exist. This effort to ensure the safety of the school’s students, faculty and staff was the correct step to take — but it does not come without a price tag.
Lake Placid Police Chief Scott Monroe gave a rough estimate of $8,000 for the expense of reacting to the bomb threat. Among the agencies responding were village police, the Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department, state police, the Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Squad, the Saranac Lake Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Who foots the bill? Taxpayers do.
A 13-year-old male student was arrested last week in connection with the bomb threat, and school officials have been mulling over his penalty. He’s already been suspended — and now faces a year of further suspension. There is also a question of restitution.
The student’s parents should not be liable for all the expenses incurred in the emergency effort. After all, those careless individuals who must be rescued along the region’s trails and rivers by forest rangers do not have to pay for being rescued — and there certainly have been situations in which someone was reckless and should have paid the price of rescue.
Individuals should be held responsible for their actions, but not until the rules are changed regarding the aforementioned situations should an agency be able to collect restitution in the case of a bomb threat.
That said, there should be enough punishment to dissuade others from pulling the same prank. School officials, parents and law enforcement agencies should unite to educate students about the ramifications of making a bomb threat.
A suspension is appropriate, but more action should be taken, such as having the student perform community service. Perhaps he could help the process of educating others as to the seriousness of making a bomb threat. Everyone connected with the education of our region’s children should seize the moment to educate children — and parents — so that such a prank does not happen again in our schools.
Hopefully, the student responsible, and anyone else who may have promoted his action, have learned a valuable lesson. And those who are responsible for teaching our children should not threaten — but promise — that there will be zero tolerance for a bomb threat.