How to react to jr. high bomb threat?

Just got a call from the missus. Eldest daughter (13) was sent home from jr. high today following a bomb threat. I’m having a little difficulty sorting out my feelings – trying to figure out what, if anything, I can do. Should I expect any type of response by our school system? Our community? Or do I just tell my kids this is another sign of unfavorable trends in modern society? Is this necessarily any worse than when I was in grade/high school and kids occasionally pulled the fire alarm?

A little background: we are in an upper middle class suburb of Chicago. Over the summer there was about $70 G in vandalism at the school. Two HS age kids were caught.

I’d appreciate any input.

Well, first the obvious… go home and hug your eldest daughter, your wife, and everyone else you can get your arms around. Bomb threats are just one more reminder that we are fragile beings in a scarey place, and it’s always a good idea to hug those you love when you get the chance.

Sitting down and having a family talk about the whole situation might not be a bad thing either, but it depends on your family dynamics.

Beyond that, I would suggest being a concerned parent and getting ahold of the school to make sure there was no bomb, and to add your voice to the other parents wanting to make sure this threat is investigated.

And if the person(s) who made this threat are found, you should continue to be a concerned parent and good cititzen and learn what you can able what’s being done and make your voice known.

Is it today’s equivalent to pulling the fire alarm? Maybe in some kids minds, but I would say no. I believe the penalty for a bomb threat is a bit more severe than for a false fire alarm.


I went to a nice, suburban, middle-class, Catholic high school in the late 60s and we had at least one bomb threat every year I was there – I think Senior year we had a couple. Kinda stupid, since the Fire Department was literally next door. They wouldn’t even have to bring the truck out. A team of inspectors would just walk across the lawn, come inside and start opening all the lockers.

So with three kids in high school, my response is, yes, you take these things seriously, educate the students and punish the offenders. But if I’m going to obsess about my children’s safety, I’m frankly a lot more worried about them getting in a fight after a football game or getting hit by a drunk driver after a party.

We’ve had to deal with this as well. In our town there have been 3 different threats, each time written on the bathroom wall, claiming that a bomb would be set off on a particular day. The first two were at the high school, the third was at our oldest child’s middle school.

Of course the schools mailed out letters to inform the parents, and some did choose to keep their kids out of school on that day. We pondered it and decided that if someone truly wanted to kill a bunch of people in the school they probably wouldn’t announce it ahead of time. Also, since on the morning of the indicated day the school would be searched with bomb sniffing dogs and the entrances guarded by police, the school was probably safer on that day than on any other. The chance that a bomb would actually be set off was probably much smaller than the chance of her being hit by a car while crossing the street on her way home. We did give our daughter the choice to stay home, but she decided to go to school as usual.

It is, certainly, more serious than pulling the fire alarm, at least as far as the law is concerned. But I have a feeling that the impulse behind the action is quite the same. I would venture that it was the work of one or more very unhappy children. I’m not sure what satisfaction they get, if any, but they seem to want to disrupt things. We have fairly regular vandalism (broken windows, spray painted walls, etc.) at the schools.

We live in a very well-to-do suburban community, by the way. Most of these children want for very little. Which may be part of the problem: over-indulged kids with too much time on their hands?

My school has had about five threats this year. Usually nothing happens, once we got a box of books, then a copycat set out a box with a note and some pencils and batteries. Then every so often we’ve just been getting phone calls to the police department or the school. The first time we got out of school (for the box of books) and the other times, we all had to wait outside while the cops inspected the school. Most of the kids are getting kinda sick of it and so are the cops. But we always get an announcement over the intercom by the principal and sometimes the chief of police.
What to do about it? Well if I were you, I would make sure to talk to my child and make sure they felt ok about what happened. Also see if they know anything. Just make sure you don’t push them or make them feel like your going out of proportion on this. Also talk to other parents and call the school to see whats going on. Do not be overly edgy because there is no reason for it. The only thing this will get you is a nervous child and worry. All you can really do is try your best to keep your child safe and make sure that she knows that the police and the school is going to try and resolve what happened.
This is nothing like a kid pulling a fire alarm (we’ve had that as well). That can be fixed and isn’t as big of a problem. Plus the kids aren’t as badly punished for that as if they were caught for calling in a bomb threat.

My former high school also had a lot of bomb threats, and unless the call specified the actual location of the bomb, administration would chalk it up to another prank. The ‘tip-offs’ were invariably from bored students who wanted to get out of class, or boys who wanted to disrupt exams that their girlfriends hadn’t studied for.

Of course, we do have a very relaxed attitude, primarily because to the best of my knowledge, such threats have never been realised. At the moment, I’m guessing that U.S. schools can’t be too careful - can you imagine the press if a bomb had gone off and it got out that administration had ignored the warning? :eek:

Sometimes the bomb is real.

During my freshman year of high school (1991, so this is well before Columbine), some guy actually did set off a pipe bomb in one of the third floor boys’ toilets. Luckily, there was no one on or near the toilet at the time :eek:. It was a fairly big bomb, and it blew the toilet apart. (Someone was seen walking out of the bathroom just as it went off…of course, he was the first suspect, but it turns out that he was just damn lucky.)

Strangely, there was no bomb threat phoned in. There was just a sudden explosion. Since the chemistry labs are on that floor, some thought that there was a chem experiment gone awry.

I had the misfortune of being in P.E. class at the time. I don’t remember hearing anything (the gym was in a separate wing of the building), but I did hear the fire alarm that someone pulled in order to evacuate the building, so we headed outside. Our P.E. teacher, in all his infinite wisdom, decided to shout, “Hey, where are you guys going? There’s no fire drill scheduled for today! Get back in here!” Yes, it did not occur to him that there might be a real fire (or other reason to evacuate the building). Other teachers must have had the same attitude, since the principal actually had to get on the intercom and say, “Leave the building immediately!” That should not be necessary, IMO.

In retrospect, I wish they had let us get a few treasured belongings before they evacuated us…like, perhaps our clothes. It was May, I believe, but quite chilly for gym shorts. When they decided to send us all home, I had no house keys (they were in my gym locker, of course), so I had to go home with a friend.

It was apparent that our school was not prepared for such an emergency. (They knew what to do for a bomb threat, but a real bomb stymied them.) Did they prepare after that? Of course not. (They eventually caught the perp, after all, so then we were safe, right?) Three years later, someone lit a toilet paper dispenser on fire (second floor boys room that time), and several teachers stuck their heads out of their doors and watched the hallway fill with acrid smoke before one teacher several doors away finally had the sense to pull the fire alarm! (And, the P.E. teacher probably still said, “Get back here!”)

I would guess that most school bomb threats are just kids looking for attention or to get out of school (it’s the modern equivalent of pulling the fire alarm, IMO.) These should be dealt with seriously, but with as little fanfare as possible. There probably won’t be much of an outward response to avoid drawing attention to the event. After all, the phenomenon spread after Columbine when kids started hearing about it happening at other schools.

You should ask, though, if your daughter’s school has a good plan in place to deal with real emergencies such as bombs, fires, and school shootings. There should be at least some sort of guidelines for the administration and faculty to follow as to when to evacuate the building, how to evacuate, and a reminder to treat every fire alarm seriously.

Of course, the real problem is disgruntled students. What are schools doing about that?

Thanks for the feedback. I forgot one other incident, this fall there was a fire set in a washroom. That strikes me as quite a bit for less than a year in one jr high school.

Makes me so frustrated. Feel so helpless. I hate that my kids are being raised in a society where this is so common place. I didn’t see or hear any mention of this bomb threat on the local tv, radio, or newspaper. And this morning I see there was another bomb threat yesterday in a S. Chicago suburban high school.

I was educated in the Chicago public schools. Most people would say there is no comparison to the district my kids are in. That they are getting a far better education. But stuff like this makes me wonder. Gets me down.

Then there is the matter of taxes. I pay over $6G a year in property taxes, the lion’s share of which go to elementary and high schools. Next month there is going to be the third referendum in 4 years for the elementary district. One was for technology, the next was for construction, and this one is for salaries - to hire teachers to keep class sizes low. This one will raise my tax bill about $600. But the type of incident I’m ranting about suggests to me that there is something missing in these kids education/upbringing that won’t be cured simply by providing more money.

It’s not as tho raising kids isn’t tough enough without having to deal with this kind of crap.

I’ll agree with you there, Dinsdale. Too many kids are being brought up without enough or any parental supevision. But, that’s a totally different subject.

Like others have said, there was at least one bomb threat a year, middle school through high school. It was usually done just for kicks. Occasionally, there would be a bomb threat called in during exams, although, this usually happened in college.

Basically, the schools respond to each threat as if it is the real thing, as they should. Now, with kids having cell phones with them, these will probably go up. But, if there is a nutcase out there who wants to actually blow something up and hurt people, why would they give a warning?

Just try to keep your daughter safe when you can and trust that she’ll use good judgement when you aren’t around.

We’ve had the same thing in this area as well. I tend to dismiss these ‘threats’, especially the ones written on bathroom walls. These are so OBVIOUSLY written by students trying to get out of a class, or exam or something that it isn’t worth mentioning.

We had bomb threats when I went to school, and I don’t think that the school district ever sent out letters to parents, or told parents what was going on. Hell, they probably assumed (and rightly so) that we kids would tell our parents what happened. I also don’t think that I ever saw our parents get mad at the ‘lack of communication’.

In the wake of Columbine, and in our lawsuit-happy society the schools probably don’t haven’t much of a choice when it comes to communicating. Funny, though, I don’t think that the Columbine kids posted warnings in the washroom. I don’t think any of the recent school attackers did. Their ‘warning signs’ were more subtle.

There is nothing on the news, and school districts do not send letters out, etc. because they wish to avoid drawing attention to the incidents as much as possible. Imagine the kid who phones in a bomb threat and sees that it made the news! Or the kid who sees that a bomb threat made the news and dismissed all students for a day in a nearby town, and who wants to see the same thing happen at his school.

Where there is actual damage, there will probably be news coverage. I still have a news clipping from the bomb incident that shows one of my classmates shivering in his P.E. uniform.

Hmm…it seems here, reading this again, that there was a bomb threat phoned in to the middle school that morning (down the road from the high school) saying that there was a bomb in one of the schools set to go off in the next three days. School officials were still trying to decide what to do about it when the bomb actually exploded. A student said that, after the explosion, twenty minutes passed before the fire alarm was pulled. The assistant principal reported that it was “less than ten” minutes. I didn’t hear the explosion, so I don’t know. (My guess would be that the student was closer to being correct, knowing what I know. But, it was almost eep ten years ago.)

If you want reassurance or information, call the school, and I’m sure that they will talk to you. They just don’t want to give the perp any more fame than they have to.

You can have disgruntled students in the nicest of school districts. In fact, perhaps it’s more likely, if the faculty and administration have the attitude that “everything is hunky-dory” and “it can’t happen here”. Columbine was a nice suburban school, and so was mine.