The first of those alleged to be responsible for a rash of bomb threats at the Hillsboro City Schools in March and April admitted to his responsibility for one of those threats and will spend the next two weeks in detention.
On Tuesday in Highland County Juvenile Court, the 14-year-old male admitted to inducing panic, and due to the circumstances of the offense occurring at a school, the typical misdemeanor offense is a second-degree felony.
Because the offense is a felony, the teenager will be fingerprinted and a DNA sample taken, both of which will be kept on file at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
On Tuesday, assistant prosecutor Jim Roeder recommended a period of detention for the teenager instead of time at the Department of Youth Services (DYS), which is the state’s prison system for youth.
“He admitted his fault,” Roeder said. He said the teen turned himself in to law enforcement and the school, neither of which knew who was responsible until the student came forward. “That goes to his credit,” Roeder said.
Defense attorney J.D. Wagoner said the teen “grasps the severity” of the situation and realizes that he made “a stupid mistake.”
Wagoner said the teen had been being bullied and was trying to set the bully up to get in trouble for the bomb threat. But his actions “ate at him” and he went to his father, who in turn took the boy to law enforcement where he confessed his wrongdoing.
As previously reported by The Times-Gazette, on March 18 a bomb threat was found outside a bathroom at Hillsboro Middle School with another message found inside the restroom.
According to Hillsboro Middle School Assistant Principal Joe Turner, who was present for Tuesday’s hearing, both messages were written on the wall, and above one of the messages was a description of the teen’s alleged bully. It was described to have been written in a manner so that the reader would be led to believe that it was the bully leaving the message.
Neither parent objected to the teen admitting to the felony offense, and both parents told the court the 14-year-old “is a good kid.”
He father said his son understands what he did was wrong, and that his son “made a bad decision.”
The mother, who cried as she described the disbelief at the actions of her son, said the matter was being taken very seriously with the teenager at both her house and at the father’s house. “He knows he made a horrible mistake,” she said.
Both parents talked about being concerned, even panicked when they received a call from the school on March 18 about a bomb threat having occurred.
Judge Kevin Greer told the 14-year-old to think about the concern and panic he caused not only his own parents, but to all the other students’ parents. Turner said that between the middle school and high school, which were both evacuated when the bomb threat was discovered, there are about 1,400 students.
The teenager’s actions, Greer said, “affected truly thousands of people.” He then asked the boy to think about no one being injured during the incident, and how that could have easily been different.
The boy was ordered to spend 14 days in detention. When he is released he is to perform 40 hours of community service and will be on community control indefinitely. He also has a suspended commitment to DYS, which will remain suspended as long as he does not violate the law or the orders of the court.
The judge said that while the court had talked about mostly negative things so far, the teenager had “a lot of positives.” The judge also noted that the boy’s time in detention “was a lot less than it would have been” had he not turned himself in.
On March 18 when the messages were discovered all but necessary personnel were evacuated from the Hillsboro Middle School and the Hillsboro High School 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 at Hillsboro’s middle school and high school.
As to the bomb threats that have followed that initial one, Greer told the teenager Tuesday, “You can likely take some responsibility for the copy cats “ who have followed suit.
One other student has been charged with responsibility for one of the bomb threats and is to appear in the court at the end of May.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.