Augusta, GA – Parents are speaking out about the increase in bomb threats across Columbia County schools and how it’s impacting their kids.
The threats are causing problems for the community, including costing taxpayers’ money. Some students are already facing penalties because of their decision.
Taking a pencil and writing bomb on the bathroom wall might seem like fun in the moment, but is leading to jail time and possibly costing parents thousands of dollars.
As the world processes the terrorist attacks in Paris France last week, parents in Columbia County are trying to understand the threat of bombs in their own back yard.
Frank Estrada’s daughter is a sixth grade student at Grovetown Middle School where there have been four bomb threats this year, two of them within just eight days.
“It’s so common it’s no different than the train coming through Grovetown every day. It’s like expected something is going to happen, which shouldn’t be the norm,” Estrada said. “Not too affected by the first one, but the second one she actually saw it on the wall and she told us when she came home she didn’t know if she wanted to go to school the next day.”
Stitzel’s daughter is in the same grade there.
“She is questioning me about whether I can home school her or not,” she told News Channel 6 Reporter Renetta DuBose.
Lt. Jones Nalley in the Criminal Investigation Division of Grovetown Public Safety said three students have been arrested and they are still investigating one of the threats. He said one student told police he was being bullied and wanted out of school.
He added, “All of them have been writings on the wall. Particularly in the male and female bathrooms where students just went in there and wrote there’s a bomb in the school or they’re going to blow up the school.”
Stitzel has worked to calm her daughter’s nerves, but her grades suffer too. She found a zero on her daughter’s last exam.
“She said I couldn’t concentrate to do the test or the work because she was worried and thinking about the last three bomb threats that happened at school,” Stitzel said.
“When it’s over and they’re back in the classrooms, how long does it take for them to actually get back in the mode of learning? Are they still focused or are they worried about the next one because repetitively they’re seeing it,” Estrada told us. “She’s nervous now, but with the repetitiveness I’m worried about the desensitizing of the situation.”
Grovetown High School has bomb threats too. The Sheriff’s Office responded to three in between September and October. One person was arrested. There were a total of seven county-wide in the past six months. Lt. Nalley thanks Grovetown Middle School for its role in helping to catch perpetrators.
“There are cameras set up outside those bathrooms that shows students going in and out,” Lt. Nalley said.
“Walk them through the school in those handcuffs. Show the kids what happens when you do those types of things,” said Estrada.
These bomb threats are happening with students who are even younger. Students as young as third grade are leaving threats at elementary schools. The parents I spoke with say they need other parents to talk with their kids about the seriousness of a threat.
Lt. Nalley said students arrested for the bomb threats are charged with terroristic threats and acts. Those students can spend up to more than a year in YDC. The students appear before a judge who could impose thousands of dollars in restitution for the costs of police and fire responding to the threat.