Quick Reaction Always Prudent

The problem of protecting our children against genuinely dangerous people is knotty enough without having to deal with false alarms. At some point, there is concern that the “little boy who cried wolf” syndrome may prevent the authorities from reacting decisively to a real threat.

Brooke County schools were placed on lockdown for about an hour Wednesday because of something a Follansbee Middle School student said. Another student at the school used social media to express concern. Eventually, school authorities and the sheriff’s department were notified.

It turned out that the student who made the initial comment had no weapon and, as Brooke County Sheriff Larry Palmer noted, “there was no immediate threat to anyone at Follansbee Middle School.”

Still, when school officials and the sheriff’s department were notified, the decision was made “to err on the side of caution,” Palmer added.

Good for all involved in protecting children first and asking questions later.

Exactly what the student whose comment sparked the lockdown said is not known. Obviously, it was serious enough to worry at least one other person. Whether the youngster was serious or just thought it would be fun to shake things up also is not known.

What we do know is that throughout the country in the wake of last week’s massacre at a Florida high school, there have been many threats reported. Some were genuine. Many others were not.

Teenagers often do not consider the consequences of behavior such as raising false alarms about danger. Sometimes they know what may happen and just don’t care.

But if the social media-driven frequency of spurious warnings of threats to schools increases, there is a very real danger of school and law enforcement officials not reacting decisively. That could result in needless loss of lives.

That needs to be explained to students in forceful terms. They also need to understand it may be easier than they think for false alarms to be traced back to them — and that the consequences of being caught will be dramatic.

If even a few pranks can be prevented by doing that, the effort will be worthwhile.

In the meantime, school and law enforcement officials are to be commended for their knee-jerk reactions to threats, real or exaggerated.

Keep up that good work.