Lebanon threats just latest for districts dealing with social media

Sttudent detained after hearing on Facebook post.School districts change rules, seek charges in response to bomb threats.

A 15-year-old boy was detained Monday after his first hearing on charges he induced panic at Lebanon High School, a ruling the came about an hour before the school was evacuated because of a bomb threat.

There was no indication of any connection between the incidents, part of a recent surge in problems with students disrupting school with threats, often on social networks.

Judge Joe Kirby ordered the boy from an April 15 incident - triggered by a post on Facebook - held for a risk assessment, pending another hearing Friday in Warren County Juvenile Court. The assessment will determine if he is a hazard to himself or others.

The high school was back in session before 2 p.m., after police searched the building and found nothing dangerous.

“There was a note found in the restroom that was a bomb threat. Students and faculty were evacuated immediately. Police and emergency crews were contacted. Police did a thorough search of the high school and it was declared clear and safe by the police,” J. Robert Buskirk, human resources director for the Lebanon City Schools, said via email.

Police said “an active criminal investigation is ongoing.”

Jack Chrisman drove past the high school as police were blocking the entrances and students were outside during the evacuation.

“I guess they’ll do anything to get out of school,” Chrisman said.

Districts change rules, seek charges

School districts are rewriting their social network policies and other student code sections - and seeking charges against violators - in hopes of getting a handle on the problem.

Last week, Springboro evacuated students on Wednesday from the high school and canceled classes there on Thursday while consultants checked the building's ventilation system in response to a bomb threat written on a bathroom wall.

“It’s really sad that one student would induce such panic,” said Springboro Schools Superintendent Todd Petrey who, like school officials around the Miami Valey, has also dealt with issues stemming from student communications on social networks, such as Facebook.

“But social media has changed everything because it’s so difficult to know what students are doing on it,” said Petrey.

In addition to regular classes, a baseball game and JROTC banquet were delayed. Petrey was able to get an extension enabling the district to complete state testing that had been canceled.

Police were reviewing surveillance video in hopes of identifying those responsible. School officials also hope to get reimbursement of the $2,000 paid for the ventilation system check.

“We are not only going to press charges, but we also want the person to pay for the cost of having to inspect our HVAC system,” Petrey said last week.

The April 15 incident at Lebanon High School did not result in a lockdown or evacuation.

School officials were alerted about the student’s Facebook post in which he suggested using “real guns” in Nerf wars, a game involving guns shooting foam bullets. The post said, “haha joking I’ll have shot up the school by then.”

Administrators removed the student from class and - after searching his car and locker - police removed him from school.

At today’s court hearing, Kirby ordered him held in the juvenile detention center in Lebanon, at least temporarily.

In addition to this case, Lebanon is wrapping up a year-long review by the US Department of Education over bullying of multiracial students alleged to have occurred in school and over social networks.

Problems like this have prompted changes in districts around the area.

Last week, the Lakota School District in Butler County updated its policy, joining Springboro, Mason, Fairfield, Monroe and Middletown among districts recently updating their student conduct code on social media and other threats

“We have rising concerns with safety and how to handle false threats,” Lakota Assistant Superintendent Robb Voglemann told the Lakota school board.

Social media and other communicated threats, said Voglemann, “cause tremendous upheaval in our school buildings.”

But dissuading student-made threats requires more than rewriting some paragraphs in the student handbook, said national school security expert Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services office in Cleveland.

“Most student conduct codes should already address the underlying misbehaviors associated with making bomb, shooting and other threats. School administrators need to talk proactively with students, parents and the school community about the potential serious consequences of suspension, expulsion and felony criminal charges that often result when a student threat maker is identified,” he said.

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