Friday, April 30, 1999

Isle school
worry parents

Police have responded to 19 cases
since the shootings in Colorado

By Jaymes K. Song


Some parents are worried about the safety of their children after bomb threats at Oahu schools following last week's school massacre in Littleton, Colo.

Police have responded to at least 19 threatening cases at schools since the mainland shooting, police said. That includes bomb threats and assault threats to teachers and school personnel. At least nine of the 19 cases made reference to the Colorado killing.

Several parents said they are considering keeping their children out of school until the threats end. Radford High School parent Brian Smith said he was concerned and upset because of the "bad learning environment" the threats were creating.

Smith, a 1973 Radford graduate, said he went to school in a different era, an era in which they never worried about guns, shootings and bombs.

"We never even thought about it," he said.

Police say bomb threats are common at the end of the school year and before vacations, but this year the incidents started early because of the Colorado killings.

Classes at Radford High School were canceled yesterday because a suspicious device -- later determined to be a fake bomb -- was discovered in a courtyard fronting the school..

The device is being analyzed for fingerprints or any other evidence, police said.

Department of Education spokesman Greg Knudsen said classes were disrupted at Kalaheo and Moanalua high schools due to telephone bomb threats.

Students were evacuated from buildings at Kalaheo and Moanalua but later returned to classes.

Some private schools have also experienced problems.

On Wednesday, Punahou School was evacuated after a male caller said a bomb would blow up between 12:30 and 1 p.m.

No bomb was found.

After Radford students were dismissed, explosives experts conducted a thorough inspection of the campus and facilities, Knudsen said.

Radford faculty and staff then met to take a closer look at safety procedures, Knudsen added. School reopened today

Students said rumors were floating around all week warning that yesterday would be the day that a bomb would blow up at Radford.

A Radford girl was arrested by police Wednesday when an electronic message was traced back to her. The message, sent to another student, also warned that yesterday was the day a bomb would be detonated.

"Personally, I think it's a kid with too much free time," said Radford Principal Robert Stevens, referring to whoever planted the phony bomb.

Stevens said the local news media has been "sensational" reporting on his school, which has had three reported police cases since last week.

He said the sensationalism "doesn't help the campuses." The media's role should be to inform, not to sensationalize, he said.

"As the media plays up the situation, and the students read the newspaper and watch TV, they'll play with the idea with disrupting the school schedule," Stevens said. "But 99 percent are good kids. Less than one percent causes the chaos."

Students should be aware that bomb threats can result in stringent disciplinary action and legal actions as well, Knudsen said.

Any student in possession of a firearm -- which includes bombs -- on campus will be dismissed from school for a year. Possession of a dangerous weapon, such as a knife, is punishable by a 92-day suspension, Knudsen says.

Yesterday's Radford threat attracted the attention of legislators.

"If the perpetrators were students, they should be expelled from the state school system forever," said Rep. Bob McDermott. "Let the parents of those disturbed youth take responsibility for their children and enroll them in a private school or home school them."

"These types of students do not belong in our school system. In my opinion, they have forfeited their right to a free public education."

Police encourage students and parents to keep reporting all suspicious activity.

"Everyone should be aware, because you never know," said Lt. Bill Kato of the Criminal Investigation Division.

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