Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Pima High School dealt with a bomb threat Wednesday.
By Jon Johnson
PIMA – Talk from one Pima High School student to another about contemplating building an explosive device has led to the suspension of the student and a recommendation for mental health services.
According to Pima Superintendent Sean Rickert, the male student told a female student Tuesday that he knew how to build such a device and was contemplating creating it and bringing it to school. The female student dismissed the talk as nonsense and left it at that.
However, that night the female student told her parents what had transpired and they suggested she inform school administrators first thing Wednesday morning. The female student did so, and Pima High School Principal Cody Barlow immediately informed the Pima Police Department, according to Rickert. A previous incident at High Desert Middle School in Globe that involved students talking about a plan involving handguns and homemade bombs was not immediately reported to law enforcement and ended up having that school’s principal charged with endangerment for not doing so.
In the Pima High School case, after informing law enforcement, Barlow secured the male student who had made the comment and his belongings. The student was subsequently suspended for his comments and the school contacted mental health services for the student.
“One of the things that I have heard a lot from people is that all schools do is punish and they don’t recognize a lot of times this is a cry for help,” Rickert said. “We’re concerned about our kids, and so we made sure that there were some counseling services made available.”
However, Rickert said that in this climate students have to be wary of how they speak while at school and such talk is not acceptable.
“Students need to know we’re not going to tolerate that kind of talk at school,” Rickert said. “Talking that way at school has now become like talking that way at the airport; it’s just not allowed.”
On Oct. 3, 2016, Safford High School was evacuated after a bomb threat was posted on the social media app “After School”. The post stated, “I have planted a bomb in the school. You have 30 minutes to find and disarm it or evacuate. You have been warned.”
The 17-year-old student who posted the hoax threat was referred to juvenile probation on recommended charges of threatening or intimidating and hoax. Threatening or intimidating is a Class-1 Misdemeanor and hoax is a Class-4 Felony, according to the Arizona Revised Statutes.
At that time, Safford Superintendent Ken Van Winkle said the decision to prosecute came down to a concern for all of the district’s students.
“We can’t take anything like this lightly,” Van Winkle said. “We have to protect our kids. That’s our number one priority.”
In addition to taking care of the situation in Pima, the school also called parents Wednesday and informed them of what happened and let them know that there wasn’t a live threat and that it was actually a student discipline problem that was being handled. Still, a handful of parents kept their children from attending school Thursday.