CADIZ – He’s 14 years old, he sits in a courtroom and is listening to a judge sentence him to a possible seven years of incarceration, or until he is 21 before he ever sees freedom again. Why? All because he wrote on a wall that said in so many words: “There is a bomb.” The charge is Inducing Panic but it comes with an attached felony of the second degree for a bomb threat made last month. That is serious as these threats have mounted to six in the past four years with three coming in just the last month.
The boy, whose name is withheld here is not yet a freshman in high school but he is looking at as little as six months to possibly seven years if he doesn’t do what is necessary while confined to Oakview Juvenile Residential Center, which is a part of the juvenile prison system.
Words on a bathroom wall, though, may seem like an insignificant act to a bunch of high school kids but it is not. And it’s certainly not to law enforcement who are then dispersed to the streets to direct traffic as students are re-directed to a safe zone. A bomb squad must be called in and the entire school must be searched after completely being emptied.
Judge, Matthew Puskarich also handed down nine months probation ordered to pay $363 restitution for the extra squad to be called, as well as undergoing counseling. Puskarich stated that typically, six months to one year is what is served, which he said was the norm.
Puskarich added that his claim was that he was bullied and “just wanted to go home” but he and others felt that there was a little more to the story than that. He feels the Oakview facility is the best for the individual, as he will continue to receive his education and not be held back. This was the alternative to a possible sentence for real prison because of the F-2 rating of the crime.
“He would have been eaten alive,” Puskarich said regarding the prison stay he could have rendered. Most of the perpetrators have received similar sentences, as did the juvenile who made the threat at the Belmont Harrison Career Center two years ago.
“It disrupts education, law enforcement, it must be taken seriously,” Puskarich said.
Puskarich said it is not an impulsive act but more than likely a “cry for help.”
“I don’t think the kids realize that,” referring to the complete disruption of school and law enforcement work. “I don’t think they realize there are serious consequences to this.”
He stated that the one making the threat is going to receive the “retribution they’ve earned” because it is affecting kids of all ages who have to go through the process of being evacuated. He said the younger ones still in elementary school do not understand what is going on.
Dr. Steve Albrecht (PHR, CPP, BCC) former San Diego Police Officer with significant experience in issues of security and a wide range of behavioral sciences, heads a consulting firm on human resource issues. Albrecht’s view differs from Puskarich’s cry for help angle and feels many threats are based on the attention aspect of making the threat.
“I think there’s a sense for some kids that they just like to watch the process unfold, they like to see the chaos you know, which is evacuation and the police response and the fire department and a lot of standing around and then the sheriff’s bringing dogs…” Albrecht explained. “…And I’m not sure where that comes from whether it’s self esteem or…problems at home but there’s something about that disruptive nature that they enjoy doing.” He touched on the angle of self-esteem driving many of these threats and how some relish in ruining others peace.
“…There’s a power thing there, which is ‘however little power I have in my own life I have a lot of power when I do things like this,’” Albrecht explained. He feels that aside from the bullying excuse the main reason for the threat is to “disrupt the business.” He also feels that adolescents are very sensitive to social media and committing these acts will get them attention in that manner as well.
Dr. Amy Klinger, associate professor of educational administration at Ashland University where she also heads the Educator’s School Safety Network, a non-profit organization that works nation wide using training, research and consulting regarding school safety, feels these threats are bred from various reasons.
Klinger agrees that individuals “within the organization” are committing the vast majority of school threats but outsiders can also be involved. She further stated that Ohio is now the number one state for bomb threats
“So, it’s not a simple matter that a hundred percent of them are just kids being dumb in a school,” Klinger said, “that’s certainly a percentage of them but we have to acknowledge that there are outside forces doing these things.”
Klinger said society needs to guard itself from the simplistic approach that these threats are always a dud committed by high school kids looking for attention.
“It is part of a larger plan for violence,” Klinger said where the bomb threat is just a part of a plan for more violence. “But you also do have those kids that are just impulsive, it is a bit of attention seeking…a prank sort of thing but that excuse to me is becoming less and less of a valid reason why those things happen because any idiot by this time should realize that…there is a consequence to doing these kind of things.”
On the other hand, Klinger felt a society that is struggling with a lack of responsibility for one’s actions is also a cause where a student just doesn’t care about his/her actions and refuses to own up to the action. She said in some instances schools have even failed to “enact” consequences as well.
Klinger mimicked Albrecht’s thoughts concerning social media where things could “spiral out of control” when someone writes something and someone else then picks up on it where the threat, real or perceived “takes on a life of its own.”
Klinger also touched on an interesting aspect of school evacuations and feels the way an evacuation is conducted might actually set in motion the next future threat.
Klinger is critical of schools for what she believes are under trained, or not trained at all, administrators in school threats and how to properly address a threat or administrate an evacuation if needed.
“The way you respond to a bomb threat predicts whether you’re going to have more,” Klinger stated referring to some evacuations where students are laughing and teachers and others are chatting or possibly chaos surrounding the event could add to an atmosphere that speaks of little consequence based on her research.
She said even treating each threat the same could add more in the future because the evacuation shouldn’t be “fun.” Klinger said minimizing the chaos and police lights and a sunny atmosphere goes a long way to cutting down on threats.
“You look at some of the schools that have really cut their bomb threats down it’s because it is not pleasant,” she said concerning evacuations. “I’m not saying they’re awful and mean to the kids but it’s not a pleasant party atmosphere. It’s serious…we’re going to make up the time we lost, we’re going to do stuff while we’re sitting here…you look at the videos and it looks like they’re having a party…that’s going to encourage more bomb threats because that was much more interesting than my third period calculus class.”