Archive for Thursday, December 9, 1999

JEFFERSON COUNTY TAKING THREATS SERIOUSLY

December 9, 1999

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— Jefferson County authorities say they will continue to take all threatening statements made by students seriously.

The days of an offhand remark or childish prank being dismissed are gone in Jefferson County -- at least when they're tied to a threatening statement -- the county sheriff said Wednesday.

In the wake of a Tuesday incident in which a 12-year-old was detained for allegedly saying a bomb was in Oskaloosa Middle School, Jefferson County Sheriff Roy Dunnaway said authorities want to emphasize that all threatening statements will be taken seriously.

"I don't think the kids understand the totality of it," Dunnaway said Wednesday. "They need to understand that you could get suspended from school for a year, and you could face felony charges.

"Kids need to know that they can't say they're going to do something (threatening), even if it's joking."

Authorities on Tuesday detained a 12-year-old student at the school after another student said the boy made a statement that a bomb was in the school, Dunnaway said.

The student allegedly told a schoolmate a bomb was in a school trash can, authorities said.

Authorities spent about three hours searching the school with a dog before determining that there was no bomb.

Jefferson County Attorney Jim Vanderbilt on Wednesday would not say if the boy had been charged, or if he had appeared in court.

"I'm not going to comment because he is a juvenile," Vanderbilt said.

State law allows criminal records pertaining to juveniles younger than 14 to remain closed to the public.

Supt. Bob Overstreet said one student overheard another make the statement about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. The student who heard the comment called the Safe School Helpline about 5:30 p.m.

Through the Safe School Helpline, students may call a toll-free number anonymously to report threats or rumors of threats. The Ohio-based company that takes the calls then notifies school administrators.

"We try to have students talk to teachers directly," Overstreet said. "If there had truly been a bomb or something, it would have gone off before anyone knew about it."

Overstreet said the comments allegedly made by the 12-year-old "weren't a threat, it was more like a statement."

Classes were not affected by Tuesday's incident.

In May, a similar bomb threat was made to the Safe School Helpline that prompted dismissal of classes in Oskaloosa for half a day.

-- Michael Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is mdekker@ljworld.com.

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