Kids face plenty of hazards at school, from bullies to boredom. But the chances they'll be killed there are tiny: Homicides on school grounds are not just rare but far more rare than they used to be. Nonetheless, when a terrible crime like the Sandy Hook massacre happens, people have a natural tendency to worry that something similar will hurt the children they love. Sometimes that leads to unobjectionable safety measures, such as a basic review of a school's emergency procedures. And sometimes it just makes people crazy.
Below we'll count down five of the worst school security scares of 2013: four that we know about, and one whose pending presence we can infer. Just as important, you'll read about the policies that have allowed so many over-the-top overreactions to happen.
5. The Fresh Prince. Ambridge, Pennsylvania, February 28, 2013: An eye doctor's receptionist calls Travis Clawson to remind him he has an appointment. The high school senior doesn't answer the phone, so she hears his voice mail message, in which Clawson performs a part of the theme song from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. When she gets to the line shooting some b-ball outside of the school, she mishears it as shooting some people outside of the school. And things just escalate from there.
By the day's end, Clawson's school had gone into lockdown and police had arrested the teen. "District Attorney Anthony Berosh said it was determined after listening to the message closely that it did follow the Quincy Jones-penned song and Clawson was released," the Beaver, Pennsylvania, Times reports. Clawson wasn't charged, but the acting police chief "said he urged Clawson's parents to have him change the message." Because you never know when another caller might hear a line from the most innocuous sitcom this side of Saved by the Bell and construe it as a criminal threat.
OK, you say, that story is pretty ludicrous. But you can see why everyone snapped into action after they heard the receptionist's report, and they didn't do any serious harm. Better safe than sorry, right?
Seems to me the cops could have saved everyone some trouble if they'd listened "closely" to the message before descending on Clawson, who was sitting unarmed in the school counselor's office when police arrived to arrest him. But I agree that there are worse ways to behave when a rumor of a security threat is afoot. There is, for example, our next incident...