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In light of several apparent "copy cat" bomb hoaxes made at area schools in recent weeks, The Observer News Enterprise clarified its reporting policy on those types of false alarms.
"The O-N-E will not report on any bomb threat hoax that occurs at any school in our coverage area," said O-N-E Publisher Michael Willard. "We believe the proliferation of news stories reported by media outlets in Catawba County and throughout the region only serves to exacerbate a serious problem that wastes a significant amount of time for law enforcement and school administrators."
On Monday, a bomb threat was reported at Fred T. Foard High School, and following a school lockdown at the high school and nearby Jacobs Fork Middle School, media outlets throughout the region quickly reported on the incident in broadcast and online platforms.
Investigators with the Catawba County Sheriff's Department investigated the threat and reported it was a hoax.
Monday's threat is at least the second law enforcement has responded to at Foard and Jacobs Fork in about a month's time. Similar threats have been carried out at other schools in the district, particularly in the county's western areas. All threats were investigated and discovered to be hoaxes.
Still, the damage is done, Willard said.
"This has the potential to cause a sense of hysteria. When parents of students at the schools see news reports about bomb threats, their first instinct is worry. Many times, they will try to remove their child from the affected school. While this reaction is understandable, it ultimately causes more problems as administrators and law enforcement are trying to keep safe children inside the school building," Willard said. "Further, when a student sees the effect a bomb threat hoax has â€” media publicity and a disrupted school day, at the very least â€” it might inspire other young people to try the same stunt."
That's why The O-N-E will not report on bomb threats, following today's news coverage, which focuses on school system and law enforcement reactions, and in particular, the investment of time and energy made for each bomb threat.
"School leaders and law enforcement must treat every bomb threat like it is real," Willard said, "but the news media doesn't have to."
"Going forward, The O-N-E is committed to working with school leaders to stop this recurring problem," Willard said. "Refusing to publicize these hoaxes is an important step in that process."