Education

Wake school system may fine students whose threats lead to evacuations

Leesville Road Middle School and High School students, teachers and administrators crowd the road outside the schools during an evacuation prompted by a bomb threat on April 25, 2007. Wake County is considering fining and suspending students who make threats that lead to evacuations.
Leesville Road Middle School and High School students, teachers and administrators crowd the road outside the schools during an evacuation prompted by a bomb threat on April 25, 2007. Wake County is considering fining and suspending students who make threats that lead to evacuations. News & Observer file photo

Because of concerns about a rising number of threats made against schools, Wake County students could face fines and long-term suspensions of more than 10 days if their actions lead to evacuations.

The Wake County school board’s policy committee backed Tuesday changes in the Code of Student Conduct that would stiffen the consequences for making threats that lead to school evacuations, including requiring students to pay restitution for the disruption and the cost of emergency responders. The policy change comes as the school district has received 22 threats to middle and high schools in October and November, leading to four evacuations.

“We’re wasting incredible staff time, instructional time and in some cases community resources, particularly police and fire,” Superintendent Jim Merrill told the committee. “It’s not their primary responsibility responding to something kids write on the wall.”

The policy was discussed the same day that all of the schools in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school system, were closed because of a terrorist threat. Fears have been heightened after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino, Calif.

Marvin Connelly, Wake’s chief of staff and strategic planning, said the Raleigh Police Department has asked the school district to communicate the seriousness of the issue because it’s consuming police resources. There have been several highly publicized evacuations this school year, including one in September at Sanderson High School in Raleigh.

The policy doesn’t list a specific restitution amount. If the student couldn’t afford to pay the amount, a process would be set up where the student could get a waiver and perform an alternative service.

In addition to school disciplinary action, students also face criminal charges for making those threats.

The policy change will go to the full school board for approval in January.

“Our students need to understand that there are some things that are not funny,” said school board Chairman Tom Benton. “It’s not a joke. There are very serious consequences for them and for the people around them.”

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

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