Bomb threats against schools – elementary through college – are disturbingly common and have persisted over decades in varying social-political situations.
Public schools in Tishomingo County dismissed classes for part of a day this week, the second time since the first of the year a threat has caused a search of schools, lost classroom time and disruption of extracurricular activities.
The perpetrators doubtlessly think the whole thing is a huge joke, but their snickering will stop when they are found out and arrested, possibly charged as both state and federal felons as they enter the official criminal class.
Making a false bomb threat is a federal offense punishable under United States Code 18-844(e), with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, $250,000 fine, or both. This penalty also applies to juvenile offenders (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives 2003).
The FBI is standing by while local authorities investigate.
“The FBI is aware of the suspicious calls to several school systems throughout the state. We have contacted the affected jurisdictions and offered any assistance they might need to help them as they look into the situation. The cases are still local matters at this time,” FBI Special Agent Jason Pack said recently.
Homeland Security is assisting through the Fusion Center, which gathers intelligence and turns it over to local authorities, said Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain.
Many threats have been made against American schools in recent weeks, including at least six other systems in Mississippi.
“When we catch the people doing this, an example is going to be made,” a New Jersey investigator said of threats in his state.
Some of the threats in other places have been through recorded messages, a digital threat from a distant site, in some cases narrowed to California.
A bomb threat is generally defined as a threat, usually verbal or written, to detonate an explosive or incendiary device to cause property damage, death or injuries, whether or not such a device actually exists.
Caution is necessary because if a bomb exists and explodes the consequences can be horrific.
When large facilities such as schools are involved, it can be difficult and time consuming to search for hazardous device or substances.
Bomb threats are sometimes called in at educational institutions by students who feel under stress because of academic pressure. Some such threats happened in the 1960s and 1970s at the University of Mississippi, but perpetrators were discovered and the threats stopped.
It should be noted children under 18 are not immune from criminal punishment in serious cases.