Parents angry over district's handling of school bomb threats

Horry County Police arrested a 12-year-old boy in connection with a bomb threat made at Forestbrook Middle School Tuesday morning.

Police say the threat was found on a bathroom wall.

Horry County Schools Spokesman Teal Britton says the threat listed a specific time the bomb would got off, but even though that time passed when the threat was found, students were evacuated. They were allowed back in around noon, when the school was cleared by the police department's bomb squad.

"It was found after the time suggested, but we still went through the exercise. It was essentially an hour and a half," Britton said.

Principal April Scott sent an email to parents saying, "The school was searched and secured and we have been cleared to continue our regular school day. We will do everything we can to investigate this situation. The students and teachers have been sent back to class and have been instructed to continue their regular activities."

Scott also posted similar messages on the school's Facebook and the webpages. However, some parents were still upset they were notified after the fact.

"We're wondering if our kids are going to be okay. We're wondering if other kids are going to be okay. I'm supposed to be at work today, and I had to call off of work because of it. It's crazy," Paula Gregory said.

"They should have notified after the kids were evacuated, but before they were allowed back in. Parents do have a right to know what's going on, especially in a situation such as this. CCU has an alert system in place which sends an email ...or text message in an emergency situation. Horry County should utilize the same system," Linda Evans Johnson wrote on the NewsChannel 15 Facebook page.

Antoinette Fazio wrote, "It's my child! I want {to} know when he or she is in danger! That is my right as her mom!"

"The other challenge we have is the need for immediacy and parents want to know immediately, when something happens," Britton said. She added the protocol for this is up to the school's principal, who can activate an all-call system. To do so, it must be done through a computer inside the school.

"As we transition into a new system, which will be availible to parents next school year, it will make accessing that information easier from a remote location," Britton said.

The is the second bomb threat at the school in less than two weeks.

Police charged an 11-year-old girl on April 4 after they say she wrote a bomb threat on a bathroom wall at Forestbrook Middle. She was released to a parent.

The 15th Circuit Solicitor's Office is handling that case.

Assistant Solicitor Caroline Fox cannot speak specifically about the girl's case because she is a juvenile, but Fox says there are numerous diversion programs they try to use to keep kids out of court. No court date has been set in the girl's case.

When asked if the school should enforce stricter punishments for students who are writing bomb threats, Britton said the student is almost always suspended following a hearing. She added that she doesn't think many students of the middle school age, where a lot of these bomb threats are occuring, "know the disruption they are causing by writing the treat."

"There might be a time where the discussion turns towards making up the hours these threats take up, but that no doubt would be an unpopular discussion," Britton said.