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Posted: 01/02/08

Multiple threats hit Romeo
Community Schools in 2007

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      Romeo Community Schools dealt with a number of threats in 2007, resulting in evacuations, stress and felony charges.
       The schools hadn't received a threat since April 2005, where a note was found alluding to a bomb. This past year, five different threats were discovered within the district, some of which are still under investigation.
       In light of these threats, individuals have called for a liaison officer, which would cost the district $118,000 a year.
       "I think most of the kids at the high school were upset, they're upset these things happen," said Superintendent Joe Beck. "This is totally unacceptable."
       A fight between two students on Oct. 2 caused the district to investigate, which lead to the discovery of one of the students posting a hit list of students on MySpace.com. The student claimed there would be "Virginia Tech. at Romeo H.S."
       "We determined what process to follow, and it was the judgment of everyone involved not to release the information," Beck said.
       The student was arrested the same day and charged with intimidation, aggravated assault and obstructing police.
       According to the police report of the incident, the student did not intend to act on what he stated, but "wanted his statement to be heard."
       The district's first bomb threat was found on Oct. 10, scrawled across a bathroom wall in the Romeo Engineering and Technology Center (RETC). In a fashion similar to the movie "Heathers," the threat said the school would blow up on Oct. 12, the same day as the pep rally for Homecoming.
       Students were evacuated the day it was discovered, and bomb-sniffing K-9 units were brought in early Friday morning to check the high school, RETC and Barnabo Field, all of which yielded no sign of a bomb.
       "We followed policies and procedures that were set forth in our manuals, and we worked hard to ensure a safe and orderly environment," said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Shannon Griffin.
       Students could not bring backpacks or large purses into the school on Oct. 12, and a police presence from the Macomb County Sheriff's Office was on hand for Homecoming.
       "(The threat) didn't really ruin anything," said junior John Bacci. "It might've put a dent in it, and not as many people might've come, but it was a pointless threat."
       Within the same month another bomb threat was made, this time by three students calling the Romeo Police Department on a pre-paid cell phone. On Oct. 25, the students called the department three times, making the threat on the third.
       Dispatch was able to identify the number, and by the end of the day the three students were apprehended by deputies from the Macomb County Sheriff's Office.
       "After we arrested them, we realized we've had prior contact with two of the students," said Captain John Roberts. "Two of whom have criminal records."
       Again an evacuation was triggered, and though no bomb was found, all activities were canceled. The students, ages 15, 16 and 16, were charged with making a false bomb threat, a four-year felony. They are now currently under probation.
       "The law doesn't differentiate with this kind of threat, though the penalty may change because of their ages," Roberts said. "We take these threats seriously, and are going to investigate any occurrence and have the persons responsible prosecuted to the fullest extent."
       A third bomb threat came to light on the morning of Dec. 7, written on a wall at the high school. The threat caused an evacuation and shutdown of the facility, and authorities came in and declared it safe after searching it. A $500 to $1,000 reward has been posted by the district for information leading to the arrest of a suspect.
       Macomb County Youth Services Detective Sgt. Chris Rojem said parents should be talking with their kids about these threats since they seem to not grasp the full extent of the consequences.
       "It's going on all over the country; we are so done with these kids," he said. "They're looking for days off."
       On Dec. 12, a verbal threat from a student prompted an investigation, and charges are still being sought against the individual. No evacuation was required.
       Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel said the department becomes just as frustrated as the parents, staff and students with these threats. He said it causes grief for students who want to be in school and cost the department a tremendous amount of resources.
       "We barely have enough to handle the day-to-day business," he said. "People have no idea what it takes for law enforcement to respond, like with dogs or detectives . . . it goes beyond comprehension."


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