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Threat to education

November 28, 2011

School safety threats waste time and money, and students who make threats face serious consequences.

That's the message Catawba County school administrators and the sheriff say parents should teach their children, following a handful of safety hoaxes in the past month at several county schools.

"Parents need to talk to their children at all grade levels and let them know that education is a serious business, and what we're doing with threats is basically minimizing their educational opportunities," said Steve Demiter, assistant superintendent for Catawba County Schools (CCS). "The other thing is you're spending taxpayer money. You have sheriff's officers and school officials out at schools for these threats. They're taking time for things that are not part of their normal routines."

Demiter, other school officials and Catawba and Gaston county sheriff's deputies spent time at Fred T. Foard High School on Monday after a student alluded to a security threat.

Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said a student left a note Monday morning saying a bomb would blow up the school. Demiter said school and law enforcement personnel determined which student planted the note, there was no real threat and the student has been removed from campus.

He said the student will face school discipline, and the sheriff's office will determine through an ongoing investigation whether to file charges.

Students could face up to a 365-day suspension for a bomb threat, according to the CCS student handbook.

Reid said Monday morning that he believes students see — through TV and newspaper reports — other students making threats.

"And then they do it themselves," Reid said. "...Parents can talk to their kids and let them know how serious this is. It is a felony offense and you can be charged with this."

Monday's incident at Foard follows similiar security hoaxes at nearby Jacobs Fork Middle School on Oct. 27 and what Catawba County Schools officials called two "small" false threats at Banoak Elementary this month.

Demiter and Dr. Barry Redmond, superintendent of Newton-Conover City Schools (NCCS), said school leaders and law enforcement must take every threat seriously.

Redmond said NCCS hasn't had trouble with security threats this school year and has experienced just a few security issues in his time as superintendent. He said 9/11 forever changed security and how threats are handled.

"We all have a duty to report," Redmond said. "That's a message I'd give kids. Any time something's suspected or talked about in a circle of friends, the message has to be that that's not something that's good or right to do. Life's hard enough for all of us; we need to be working together and not causing trouble for other people."

Demiter agreed that students must discourage friends from making threats.

"Sometimes I really think it is copycat," he said. "It's children seeking attention, even though sometimes it's negative attention. It could be problems they're facing at home. If parents and teachers gave kids positive attention, maybe they wouldn't do the things that draw the negative attention to them."

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