Column: No winners when it comes to school threats


When it comes to bomb threats … there are only losers.

School districts are in a no-win situation.

Administrators have little choice.

When they receive a threat — real, copy-cat, made-up or perceived — there are three options: lockdown, evacuate or shut down.

Ignoring the threat is not — and cannot — be an option.

Even though the huge percentage of threats are false, there always remains the possibility that one time, the threat will be real. And no administrator wants to be the one who makes a wrong call.

While school buildings are being emptied and searched and kids are being shuffled from building to building, students are losing time that could be better spent learning. Teachers are losing out on opportunities to educate.

Administrators and staff are losing time searching for bombs, answering phone calls, consoling students, updating social media accounts and writing news releases.

Teachers and administrators are risking their own well-being to help with searches.

Even more dangerous, some politicians and law enforcement officers are encouraging teachers and administrators to get permits to carry guns in school. I don’t know if that is a good idea. But I do have an idea that most teachers and administrators did not get into the business of education to become de-facto members of the military or law enforcement.

For some students, school threats are a good break from the monotony of classes.

But for most, the threats are stressful and worrisome. They have an impact on quality of life. Some students become fearful of returning to class. Students are getting depressed and angry.

For law enforcement, school threats also are a no-win proposition.

Police officers, deputies, firefighters and other first responders are forced to waste time and resources rushing to investigate a threat that is likely going to amount to nothing.

While they are inspecting buildings, searching closets and wash rooms or directing traffic, some other law enforcement and first-responder calls are going to be delayed, or ignored.

Bomb units and K9 units are racking up overtime pay at an amazing rate in recent weeks. I’m not certain who has to pay those bills, but someone does.

It hasn’t happened yet in the Galion area, but soon, someone is going to get hurt because some idiot wrote or called in or posted a threat. A car is going to pull out in front of a cruiser or firetruck or bomb disposal unit and someone will get hurt, or die.

Parents are in a no-win situation.

What do you say to a child asking about threats?

How do you console them if they are crying. What do you do of they are scared? Children have seen the reports of school shootings in recent years.

I don’t know.

Newspaper and legitimate media are in a no-win situation.

Thirty years ago, when I was just starting in the news business, small-town media — for the most part — didn’t report on school threats. It may have been reported as a blurb small among a long list of police calls. But that’s it.

Why?

Because we feared that publicizing a threat would only lead to copy-cat threats in the same or nearby communities, which has obviously been happening in north central Ohio in recent weeks.

So what do we do?

We report on each and every threat, no matter how silly or brainless or asinine they end up to be.

But we don’t try to make them into bigger events than they were.

We report the facts, which means we are often behind social media. when it comes to these types of events. This newspaper plays by a set of rules which are ignored by regular abusers of social media.

Recent social media conversations about school threats in Galion, Crestline Bucyrus, Northmor, Mount Gilead, Marion, Bellville and elsewhere are timely and interesting and lively. However, finding the truth in one of those conversations is like looking for a single grain of sand on a beach.

We report what we know, after we confirm it.

We don’t report or respond to rumors or false news.

We are often criticized for not giving out enough information, or being to slow.

But we won’t report something we cannot prove to be true. We relay on personal accounts and personal interviews or legitimate news releases to report the facts.

Social media has no such rules. The only rule on social media seems to be “the more outrageous, the better.”

I cringe at the amount of ignorance and hyperbole and bluster I see on social media each time a school receives a threat.

Judges and prosecutors are in a no-win situation.

How does a prosecutor decide on a charge? Age? Injuries caused? The type of threat? The amount of money it cost to diffuse the threat?

Mostly

The only penalty off limits to some on social media is the death penalty.

But it’s not that easy.

Should the life of a 10-year-old or 13-year-old or 16-year-old student be ruined because he or she did something really stupid?

I don’t know.

But, I do know this.

Whatever charge a prosecutor brings, and whatever sentence a judge hands out, is going to be way too strict for many, and way to lenient for just as many.

As an optimist, I believe there are very few ‘no-win’ situations.

But this one has me befuddled.

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Russ Kent

Galion Inquirer

 

 

Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer. Email him at rkent@aimmediamidwest.com

 

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