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Posted 4/11/18 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

When it comes to protecting our children while they are attending school, it is always better to err on the side of caution than to risk the unthinkable. It is far better to call off school or evacuate a school when a threat against the safety of our students and educators is made rather than having to live with the consequences that may result by taking the threat too lightly.
We have seen all too tragically what happens when someone who is armed and bent on killing decides to enter a school building. With students, teachers and administrators literally trapped in classrooms, they are defenseless targets.
It happens far more frequently than anyone would like to admit. But who can forget the tragic death of students at Columbine High School in Colorado, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, and most recently at Parkland High School in Florida.
School officials and law enforcement can’t prevent some of the tragedies that this county has seen in the past, especially when the shootings come without warning. But they are trying to make our schools safe.
But where schools and law enforcement do shine is when it comes to dealing with threats. When school administrators are alerted to a viable threat to students or to school buildings, they react each and every time as though the threat is real.
We saw that at Watford City High School last October when a message was discovered in a bathroom. School officials took appropriate action with law enforcement arresting the person who left the message within 24 hours.
We have seen it across the state this year as schools and law enforcement have responded to threats at New Salem, Belcourt, Hettinger and Valley City. And most recently, bomb threats forced the evacuation of Legacy High School in Bismarck on five different occasions, and last Friday, Williston High School was evacuated following a bomb threat.
The people who are making these threats haven’t been that hard to figure out. In the case of the Watford City High School threat, it was a former student who made the threat. At New Salem, it was a 13-year-old student, and a juvenile was arrested following the threat at the New Salem school. In the Bottineau incident, it was a Bismarck-area student who made the threat; and it was another juvenile who was charged in the incident at the Hettinger school. Valley City police are still looking for leads into the threatening message that originated in Valley, Ala.
In the incidents at Legacy High, authorities believe the threats may have come from overseas, while the FBI and local law enforcement are still working the Williston High School threat.
But the “why” people are choosing to make threats to our schools is far harder to figure out. Are they are a disgruntled student? Do they think that making threats is funny and a way that they will secretly make the news? Or are they simply trying to gauge how a school and law enforcement will react to possible threats?
Regardless of the reason why, those people that are making threats deserve every charge of terrorizing or other penalty that they face.
And school and law enforcement need to take each and every threat seriously.