News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 20, 2012

EDITORIAL: Responding to a threat

Vigo officials handled situation with an appropriate response

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Vigo County school administrators and law enforcement officials found themselves in a tense and difficult predicament this week in wake of last week’s devastating massacre of 26 children and adults at an elementary school in Connecticut.

With anxiety over school safety already at an all-time high, a 17-year-old male student at Terre Haute South Vigo High School apparently chose to amuse himself and make matters far worse for everyone else by allegedly scrawling a threat related to the recent shootings in one of the school’s restrooms on Monday.

Reacting and responding to such an idiotic action required layers of analysis, sound judgment and reasonable decision-making by all involved.

There were undoubtedly a series of questions than demanded immediate consideration. Was it a credible threat or just a prank? Who was responsible for it? Were safety and security compromised? What was the appropriate response by administrators? By law enforcement? How and when should the school community and public be informed and advised?

And that was probably just the first 30 minutes.

An immense amount of public resources were channeled into dealing with the matter, and in a short time, the threat was deemed nothing more than a maddening prank. Under the circumstances, however, even a stupid prank posed a serious situation that demanded aggressive action. By Tuesday, a suspect was identified, leading to an arrest and incarceration at the county’s juvenile detention center. The public was then informed.

With a community’s emotions running high, the inevitable criticism and second-guessing concerning the handling of the matter has emerged. For those who find themselves in the epicenter of such tough situations, that goes with the territory.

Still, the response in this case was appropriate. And the ultimate goal of ensuring that the school and those inside are safe was achieved. What’s more, a strong message was sent that dangerously ignorant pranks will not be tolerated.