Threats are no laughing matter

Published 9:12 pm Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thanks to the watchful eyes of concerned parents, a potential act of violence at Jemison High School was stopped before it ever happened.

Jemison Police arrested a 16-year-old sophomore late Monday night for making terrorist threats through his MySpace page, including a statement that he was going to “shoot up the school.”

The charge is a Class C felony.

What made these threats even more disturbing is that the planned event was compared to the Virginia Tech shootings and that six students — though not threatened directly — were named in the threats as people the suspect was “having trouble with.”

We applaud the parent or parents who found this material and brought it to the attention of authorities. It almost goes without saying that any kind of threat, even if the person making the threat had no intention of ever carrying it out, must be taken seriously.

There is no way the people involved can know what the student’s real intentions were. This is true because we have seen acts of violence similar to what was described on this Web site carried out on school campuses across the country. These acts of violence are some of the worst tragedies ever to occur, and no school or community, no matter how small, is immune.

Also, this is not the first time social networking sites like MySpace have played a role in problems within our schools. Cyber-bullying is another example of how students can lash out at other students, but the incident in question goes way beyond bullying.

It is important for parents to monitor their children’s behavior, especially when it comes to the Internet. Any warning signals should be addressed as soon as possible, and no kind of threat should be ignored.

The risk of hurting someone’s feelings is far less than the risk of ignoring a threat, and we are glad these parents chose to do the right thing.