Lessons to be learned

Published 9:53 pm Monday, April 29, 2013

Last week was a tough week to be a teacher in Suffolk.

Multiple bomb threats at Lakeland High School, more bomb threats — as well as warnings of a “shoot out” — at King’s Fork High School and a bomb threat at King’s Fork Middle School caused chaos for teachers and administrators and led to frayed nerves for worried parents and students.

The threats took a variety of forms, from the scrawled-on-the-bathroom wall references to Lakeland and King’s Fork’s two schools being blown up to the social-media shooting threat on Twitter that resulted in 65 percent of the student population at King’s Fork High School being absent on Friday.

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Police are investigating each of the threats, and experience indicates there’s a good chance they’ll identify at least some of the people involved. Teenagers like to brag to one another, Twitter accounts can be traced and the wall of silence around teens is more easily assailed than most of them realize.

The good news, of course, is that all of the threats turned out to be groundless, as expected. It seems unlikely that someone truly intent on causing great loss of life and limb at a school would actually warn of an impending attack, and it’s even more doubtful that they’d choose to record such a warning on a bathroom wall — hardly a source of information known for its trustworthiness in the first place.

Still, school officials cannot afford to be wrong when it comes to such threats. One episode of misplaced complacency could be tragic.

What will do the most to deter such behavior in the future is harsh and very public punishments for the people who passed along last week’s threats. When students see the overwhelming consequences of such behavior, they will refrain from copying it. Of course, if the suspects receive light sentences that are then shielded from the public eye, students will learn something entirely different.

Either way, the school system and its judicial system will teach youngsters some important lessons in the course of the investigation.