Two Putnam City Schools Cleared for Bomb Threat

Several metro-area schools were not in session Monday as districts combined a professional day with Presidents' Day, giving students a day off. Putnam City Schools, on the other hand, were in session, but that did not stop some students from getting a little break anyway. Bethany police were alerted to a bomb threat at Western Oaks Middle School and adjacent Western Oaks Elementary at approximately 1:00 p.m. Monday. Students were evacuated from the building and transported by bus to nearby Putnam City West High School. Parents were allowed to pick up their children at the high school, and bus riders who remained at the school were dismissed by bus at the end of the high school day. At approximately 5:30 p.m., investigators gave the all clear for the two schools, finding no evidence of explosives. While bomb threats typically turn out to be hoaxes, officials must take them seriously. In general, if a person attempts to blow up a building or detonate an explosive in a public place, he or she plans the bombing secretly. A bomber does not typically notify authorities of his or her plans, unless the threat is made in connection with some other demands. While some students may think calling in a bomb threat is a good way to disrupt the school day, it is actually a serious crime with serious consequences. Oklahoma law on bombing and making bomb threats is found in 21 O.S. 1767.1. This law makes it a felony to "[m]ake any threat or convey information known to be false, concerning an attempt or alleged attempt to kill, injure or intimidate any person or unlawfully damage any real or personal property by means of an explosive, incendiary device, or simulated bomb." In other words, the threat alone--even if it is an empty threat--is enough to warrant a felony charge. Anyone convicted of making a bomb threat faces a sentence of 3 to 10 years in prison. Additionally, a defendant faces a maximum fine of $10,000. Similarly, the state of Oklahoma makes it a felony to commit a terrorist hoax. Making a terrorist threat is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison. Additionally, anyone convicted of making a terrorist hoax must pay restitution for the cost of emergency response, including "emergency personnel, equipment, supplies, and other expenses" (21 O.S. 1268.4). Oklahoma is particularly sensitive to bomb threats and terrorist threats after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. The bombing, which claimed 168 lives and injured more than 680 people, was the largest act of terrorism on American soil until the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, missing its intended target at the White House. To this day, however, the Oklahoma City bombing remains the largest act of domestic terrorism in the United States. Suffice it to say that the state does not have a sense of humor regarding bomb threats and terrorist hoax, and anyone caught making such a threat will be prosecuted swiftly and severely.