SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ - Twice within one week (April 24 and May 1), bomb threats have been found at Terrill Middle School. In both instances, the building was searched, and threats were found to be false. On Friday morning, students conducted safety drills for about an hour under the supervision of school administrators and police officials.
According to a letter from New Jersey Director of Homeland Security and Preparedness Edward Dickson posted on New Jersey's Department of Education web site, there were 61 bomb threats in New Jersey during the 2012-13 school year with no live devices actually found.
Dickson reported that a study found the majority of the threats were received by public schools, usually high schools, on Mondays and Thursdays. The most common method of delivery is by note.
“A bomb threat is a felony and a serious offense,” explained Scotch Plains Police Captain Brian Donnelly. “If we find out who did this, they could be charged with a felony, which leads to over 18 months of jail time if found to have been committed by an adult.”
In New Jersey, juveniles are treated differently, and the matters would be heard in juvenile court. The offender could potentially serve time in a juvenile detention facility, and the offense will go on the individual’s criminal record.
“Sometimes people think it’s just a kid making a prank, but we want to reiterate that this is a serious offense,” Donnelly said. “We take the safety in our schools very seriously. This is a very active investigation.”
A letter signed by Dr. Margaret Hayes, Superintendent of Scotch Plains-Fanwood Public Schools, and Dr. Kevin Holloway, Principal of Terrill Middle School, was sent to parents on Friday, May 2, to address their concerns:
Today we conducted a planned evacuation drill at Terrill with the support of both the Scotch Plains Police and the Union County Sheriff’s Office. This drill provided school personnel with helpful feedback on our procedures.
Safety is the first priority and thus any threat warrants a thorough response. However, we are also aware that there are significant costs associated with investigating false bomb threats. Anyone found responsible for such actions is subject to prosecution under the law as well as district disciplinary consequences.
We are grateful for the outstanding cooperation we received from both the Scotch Plains Police and the Union County Sheriff’s Department.
Assuming the culprit is a student in the school, what is the motivation for making a bomb threat?
“The motivation can be anything from getting their kicks to wanting to get out of school early. In some cases, mental health issues may be a factor. It’s usually an adolescent seeking attention who just thinks this kind of thing is funny, but motivation is difficult to ascertain without knowing the kid,” said John Migueis, owner of myHope Therapy services in Scotch Plains.
“If an adult is behind the threats, there’s probably a more serious set of problems,” added Migueis, who works with adolescents and adults who struggle with a variety of psychiatric, emotional and behavioral issues.