NAUGATUCK – The Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney, officials from Mingo County Schools, and representatives from local law enforcement agencies held an assembly at Tug Valley High School Tuesday afternoon to address recent bomb threats that have occurred at both Mingo County high schools in recent weeks.
The goal of the assembly was to send a loud and clear message to students that making a bomb threat can carry serious repercussions.
The assembly began with Tug Valley Principal Dr. Johnny Branch addressing the students and providing an introduction to the representatives seated on stage. “Today we are going to be talking about some school safety issues and we have a panel of guests here,” Branch stated.
Branch then introduced Don Spence, the Interim Superintendent of Mingo County Schools. “First of all, in my teaching career, when I first started, one of the first things I was taught was, ‘they don’t care until they know you care.’ That is why we are here today. We care for you and we care about what is going on in our schools… We have had four bomb threats within two weeks…” Spence said.
Spence continued, discussing how the BOE and local law enforcement agencies have collaborated to organize an assembly to address the issue. “These people are all here because they care about you. They all have a different message to give to you but it all comes back to the same thing: There is no place here for these bomb threats. Bombs threats are bigger than what you think they are. As the superintendent of schools, I want you to understand that if you are a guilty party in the participation in a bomb threat, it starts a series of events that no one changes. The principal may recommend you for expulsion… That is what happens on the school side. On the court side, there is a whole different thing. I have people here today to talk to you about that. ”
Spence then introduced the Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Duke Jewell. “Mr. Spence is correct. I do care,” Jewell began. “It doesn’t change the fact that I am very disappointed and upset that I have to be here under these circumstances. I like to come to local schools for positive events, not ever because of bomb threats. We should not have an epidemic of bomb threats in our schools,” Jewell continued.
Jewell then outlined the repercussions that can occur as a result of making a bomb threat. “We are here to educate, inform and hopefully prevent. As the prosecuting attorney, one of the duties I have is that I am the chief law enforcement officer in the county. I decide how the investigations are handled in the court system…If you don’t listen to anything I say today or anything anyone else says, please pay attention and remember this, ‘A bomb threat is not a prank, it is not a joke. A bomb threat is not funny. What it is- is a felony.’ A felony is a crime that is punishable by more than a year in prison,” Jewell stated.
“If officers identify a suspect, they are going to place that suspect in handcuffs and bring them to court. If they are 18, in the eyes of the law, you are an adult. You can be and will be charged as an adult with at least one felony…If you are under 18, you are a juvenile in the eyes of the law but that it isn’t a get out of jail free card. You will still come see me in handcuffs… A juvenile would be a delinquency case which is the juvenile equivalent of a felony. You could face incarceration in a juvenile facility and the court can keep jurisdiction over you until you are 21 years old. You do not want to be in the juvenile court system…” Jewell said.
After Jewell spoke, Sgt. M.S. Lively with the Williamson Detachment of the West Virginia State Police Bryan Casto, a West Virginia State Fire Marshall, and TVHS Principal Dr. Branch addressed the students. Each explained that making a bomb threat is not a laughing matter and will be taken seriously.
A second assembly will be held next week at Mingo Central High School to discuss the recent bomb threats. The assembly will take place at noon Tuesday, November 1. Parents are welcome to attend the assembly.
(Courtney Harrison is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)