Is a bomb threat a good enough reason to keep your kid home from school?

That was the million-dollar question dominating emails, social media posts, and text messages flying back and forth among Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) parents like me this past Wednesday. It was prompted by an email sent by school administration about a bomb threat. A few dozen OCSA students had received a message saying one was scheduled for Thursday, January 11. The missive sent by the school’s administration, some of which was published in the OC Register, explained to parents that law enforcement had vetted the threat and determined that it had zero credibility. Then the zinger: An increased on-campus presence from the local PD and Sheriff’s Department should “in no way concern our parents or staff as they arrive for drop-offs in the morning.”

Isn’t that like the man of your dreams telling you there’s no way you’ll ever get divorced and then making you sign a prenup?

Honestly, they had me at “no credible threat.” I took my youngest daughter to her Krav Maga class that evening, spoke with a few instructors about it who concurred that if there had been any concern, they’d cancel school, and voila. I didn’t think about it again that night. Margaret would go to school the next day.

I wasn’t always so trustful of law enforcement. As society has grown more skeptical of cops, I’ve gone the other way. I used to hate cops with a passion when I was in college. That’s a topic for another blog post but let’s just say taking Krav Maga the last three years has significantly improved my once very low perception of law enforcement. Don’t get me wrong – I know there are still some very corrupt cops, but I do believe many of them are in it for the right reasons.

On the way to OCSA the next morning, I’d completely forgotten about the bomb threat. Have I mentioned that I’m not a morning person? I did, however, notice that Margaret was acting strange and we started to get into a minor argument when I remembered the bomb threat. She and I had spoken about it the night before and she assured me she was not scared and that she wanted to go to school. I’d told her that if she changed her mind for any reason, that’s fine. I would not make her go.

We were feeling good about her decision until we pulled into the drop-off lane and that’s when we saw the increased presence of law enforcement. In addition to the existing security at the school (which is not located in the best area) there was the Bomb Squad, OC Sheriff’s, and Santa Ana Police. It wasn’t exactly providing us with the desired assurances given they were all huddled together in one end of the parking lot.

I asked Margaret how she was feeling. She said she was fine and that she still wanted to go. I was happy she was not letting emotions get the best of her. And selfishly, work’s been piling up, so I was looking forward to getting it done.

No sooner than I get to my youngest daughter’s school, I get a text from Margaret. “Mom, please can you come pick me up? There’s a really nervous energy here and my stomach is a mess. I’m starting to get scared.”

My mind recalled a text that one of the parents had sent to a group of us the night before, “Not sending my daughter. Not worth the risk!” At the time, I thought the parent was being ridiculous. There was no reason not to trust the authorities who are experts in this type of situation. After all, they’d said zero credibility. Besides, we take risks with our children every day. Car accidents alone accounted for 40,000 deaths in the US in 2016 and have been on the rise. Should we not let our kids get into a car because there’s a risk? On average, there are 321,500 victims of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. Should we lock up our daughters once they turn 12?

Of course not.

When I picked Margaret up, she said that one kid was running around yelling, “It’s Bomb Threat Day!” and another friend of hers, who stayed all day, joked, “I’m gonna get blow up today!” Definitely nervous energy.

In the end, the experts were right. No bomb. It was as they suspected: a student prank.

Still, picking her up was the right thing. I would have never forgiven myself if it had been a real bomb and something happened to her. Plus, I could tell it meant a lot to her that I was willing to put aside my own perception of the situation and consider hers as equally – even more – important.

I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes our children need to feel that their views matters. Because they do.

Whoever this student is, I hope he will get the attention he is seeking in ways that don’t negatively affect thousands of people like they did on Thursday.


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