CONYERS - A text-messaged rumor of a bomb threat at Rockdale County High School landed a 17-year-old student in jail.
Trabian Deandre Clark of 1720 River Mill Trail was charged with causing a false public alarm and disruption or interference with a public school. He was arrested March 21 by the Conyers Police Department and transported to the Rockdale County Jail.
The alleged bomb threat was sent to other students at RCHS on March 21 while CPD investigators were at the school following up on leads from another text message threat sent the previous week.
A teacher alerted police officers to the text message. The police were able to track the text back to Clark, who admitted he had sent the message, Conyers Police Chief David Cathcart said.
The message said to "keep your eyes open" and allegedly named a student.
"The message said this student was thinking about blowing up the school," Cathcart said. "It said, 'Pass it on. Vote 4 Tra PASS.'"
Clark told police he did not create the message, but that it was sent to him. However, he erased the address and sent the message out as if it were his own, Cathcart said.
Rumors and threats spread by text messaging is a growing problem facing school administrators and police in an environment where almost every student has a cell phone.
Text messaging was involved in a threat circulating at the school two weeks ago when several students received messages suggesting a possible shooting was being planned for the next morning.
Police responded by increasing security measures at the high school. Access to the school buildings was limited and police used hand-held metal detectors to check students entering school.
Cathcart said police are obligated to take these threats seriously. The investigation of the March 13 incident is continuing, and police have resources available to determine the originators of texted messages or e-mails that cause disruptions at the schools.
"These are the kind of games that folks shouldn't be playing," the chief said.
"If it's that much concern about somebody doing something or committing some type of crime, they need to pick up the phone and call the police or call their administration," Cathcart said. "They need to notify the right people who have the power to handle these types of situations and not just send e-mails or text messaging and all that just to get everybody in an uproar."
Policing cell phone use among students by school administrators is difficult at best. According to Rockdale County Public Schools' policy, students are not allowed to carry cell phones to school when school is in session. Students who carry cell phones, pagers and similar devices to school are required to store them in either an assigned locker or car and turn them off so no communications may be sent or received during the school day, RCPS spokeswoman Cindy Ball said.
Teachers and school administrators are allowed to confiscate cell phones, which then can be retrieved by parents at the school's front office, Ball said.
Jay Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.