With the rash of bomb threats of late involving Hillsboro schools, a male teen alleged to be responsible for one of them in March appeared in Highland County Juvenile Court on Tuesday charged with a felony.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, an act such as a bomb threat causing an evacuation of a public place like a school is a second-degree felony.
The 14-year-old charged with inducing panic at the school is to return to the courtroom for further hearings, and he will not go to detention, though Highland County Juvenile Court Judge Kevin Greer said if the state recommended as much, he would follow that recommendation.
Assistant prosecutor Jim Roeder said the state did not request that the teenager be placed in detention because, due to the facts and after having talked to law enforcement and the school, the state “did not feel … detention was warranted at the time.”
“I cannot stress to you enough how seriously the court takes this issue,” Greer said to the teenager. The alleged offense, the judge said, “really is a very serious matter.”
Greer alluded to the other threats at the schools that have followed, and while he said he wasn’t blaming the 14-year-old for the acts of others, his alleged actions could have inspired the actions of others.
As previously reported by The Times-Gazette, on March 18 a bomb threat was found on a note outside a bathroom in the Hillsboro Middle School with another message was found inside the restroom. All but necessary personnel were evacuated from the building for approximately two hours while law enforcement performed a comprehensive search of the buildings, with nothing found.
Since that bomb threat, there have been four more reported threats. The most recent one involved a note found last Friday at Hillsboro High School, and was also discovered in a bathroom. Following the incident superintendent Jim Smith said in a prepared statement, “We, too, are frustrated by the situations that have occurred over the past few weeks in the MS/HS. With the previous threats we have taken seriously the investigations and have identified two of the students. In the future, we have a plan to limit restroom usage and monitor when students leave classrooms to prevent future issues…
“We are doing all that we can to find a solution that will bring an end to these situations and we ask that you talk with your students about the seriousness of what is taking place,” the superintendent said.
Greer on Tuesday said that the matter was serious for “a lot of different reasons,” which not only include “similar acts” by “copy cats” but the potential injury that could occur as the result of a threat, and the time and effort of law enforcement in investigating the threats.
“This will not be taken lightly” by the court, Greer said, “nor should it be.”
According to a school official present in the courtroom, the 14-year-old has been expelled from school for the remainder of the academic year.
If the facts of the alleged offense against the 14-year-old are found to be true, he could face time in the Department of Youth Services (DYS), which is Ohio’s prison system for youth.
He will be scheduled to return to the courtroom for another pretrial hearing and a trial.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.