After 2 students charged, law enforcement and school staff warn threats are never a joke

PADUCAH — Threats of violence against schools are not a joke. Since the most recent school shooting in our area, at least 10 threats have been made in several counties.

Four of them targeted Paducah Middle School — two in the past two weeks.

Two students are charged with terroristic threatening regarding those incidents. That’s a felony in Kentucky.

Guidance counselor Allison Hobbs says kids often say things to each other on social media they would never say in person.

“Social media brings a whole new element to the way kids communicate with each other,” Hobbs says. “People — not just kids — are willing to say a lot when they’re just sitting behind a keyboard,”

Local 6 asked how she and Paducah Middle School are changing the way they approach counseling.

“Administration meets very regularly — at least once a quarter — with the students to talk about issues like this,” Hobbs says. “They need to know the consequences of making such threats, and we’re very real with them.”

Paducah Police Chief Brian Laird says a terroristic threatening charge potentially stays with you for the rest of your life — and even posts kids don’t think are “public” can get them into trouble.

“I wouldn’t consider anything on the internet to be private,” Laird says. “I would consider that anybody can see it.”

He wants parents to step in and manage their children’s social media use.

“They just need to realize that saying you’re going to hurt somebody or cause harm to somebody is not really a laughing matter,” Laird says.

Hobbs wants her students to know she is there to be that outlet to cope with their frustrations.

“Our goal is to build relationships, know the students by name,” Hobbs says. “To know something about them, to make them feel welcome, to make them feel comfortable, to let them know that we’re in this together.”

Paducah Middle School Principal Allene Houston Jones says they used a new app to notify parents about the incident, which only notified one parent in each family. The school says that was a glitch, and they will be making sure that is fixed.

If your student doesn’t want to talk face to face, schools across Kentucky have an anonymous tip line. Click here to find your county.