Monday afternoon, parents were worried.
A call rang out over the police scanner that there was a report of a bomb on a school bus at Payson High School. It didn't take long before rumors were flying and our phones were ringing.
Tensions heightened as the hundreds of children who had been waiting at the bus stop began arriving home. Many of them had heard whispers of a bomb threat and watched police interrogate a middle school student who falsely accused a classmate of carrying a bomb.
Those students walked through their front doors that afternoon and told their parents vague stories about a bomb on a school bus. More parents began to wonder and worry.
Monday night, the police charged the boy with false reporting, and Tuesday morning, according to Rim Country Middle School Principal Frank Larby, the boy was removed from school.
The Roundup had two reporters on the scene one who was taking pictures of children boarding the buses when the incident happened, and one taking pictures of the police interrogating the boy.
We interviewed the police chief and the school superintendent, who, as is required by school policy, acts as the spokesman when it comes to student discipline matters.
As the facts of the story fell into place, it was obvious that this was a minor incident that had scared a lot of people because it happened during a time when the nation and our community is supercharged with concern over school violence.
Although we had pictures of the student who made the false threat, we chose not to use them because they would have identified the boy, and, we felt, over-dramatized an event borne out of rash, childhood behavior.
It is, however, our responsibility to tell parents what happened so they can make good decisions based on good information. We decided to run a front page picture of students boarding a bus along with three sentences of information that told our readers what happened and how it was handled. The line above the picture simply read, "bomb scare defused," so parents would know where to look for the story, and that all was well.
Mr. Larby, responding to criticism from parents because he didn't inform them about the bomb threat, issued a letter to all parents Wednesday shortly before leaving for Las Vegas. In the letter, Larby accuses the Roundup of overdramatizing the incident and using poor judgement in characterizing it as a bomb scare.
Larby says in one sentence that police told him Tuesday morning that the boy "made statements regarding an explosive device on a bus" and a few paragraphs later claims he didn't notify parents of the "bomb scare" because he wasn't aware of one until the Roundup hit the streets Tuesday afternoon and "characterized" the incident as such.
Obviously Mr. Larby wants to downplay the incident and his lack of action, but we take exception at his thinly veiled attempt to do so at our expense.
It's ridiculous to argue that a boy who is charged with falsely reporting a bomb and who is removed from school for "making statements regarding an explosive device on a bus" didn't make a bomb threat. It's equally ridiculous to argue that the incident, which worried a lot of people, wasn't a bomb scare and shouldn't have been reported in the newspaper.
It is our responsibility to inform the public about our community, and at times, we share that responsibility with school officials.
We did our job, Mr. Larby. Downplaying this incident and mischaracterizing it in your letter does a disservice to the parents, who expect to be kept informed in a timely manner.