Taking School Threats Seriously

Not so many years ago, school administrators could count on one or two fire alarms pulled by pranksters or bomb threats called in by students who just wanted to shake things up. They were, in a word, routine.

If the fire alarm sounded, students were marched out onto the sidewalk for a few minutes, then returned to class. If a bomb threat was called in, the school was searched, then classes resumed. Again, routine.

No more. Social media has given troublemakers a whole new avenue to disrupt the educational process. There is nothing routine about how threats — more often, these days, that someone plans to bring a gun to school — are handled.

Sadly, it has to be that way. Just a few days ago, a student at a Texas high school took a pistol to school and shot a girl. On Tuesday, a 15-year-old boy in Kentucky used a firearm to kill two other students and wound 15 people at his school.

Then, on Wednesday, there were postings on Facebook about racial tension at Wheeling Park High School — and one student’s alleged threat to come to school armed. Several parents kept their children out of school for the day.

School officials called in additional sheriff’s deputies — the school already has a resource officer — just in case. The sheriff’s office was investigating the situation.

Though school officials would not confirm it, there were reports one student had been suspended in regard to the situation.

It would be nice to put the whole thing down to an old-fashioned bomb threat using modern technology. We can’t do that, however.

The possibility that social media warnings of trouble may be based on a seriously disturbed student capable of creating mayhem is too great to treat any threat as routine. What happened in Texas, where the shooter had a long record of violent behavior, makes that clear. The fact there have been shootings at 11 American schools already this year reinforces the point.

School officials are not reluctant to cancel classes when inclement weather threatens the safety of students on buses. That is exactly the right attitude.

Unfortunately, it needs to be the same outlook they take on threats of violence in our area’s schools.