A 17-year-old LaFayette (Ga.) High School student will be charged as an adult over a bomb threat that interrupted a school spelling bee and sent students home early Friday.
Police arrested Johnathon Parker after he confessed on Monday to writing a threatening message on a boys' bathroom wall at the school and leaving a device meant to mimic a bomb in a sink Friday morning, said LaFayette High School Resource Officer Billy Mullis.
The message on the wall said, "I will blow up the school at 10:50," Mullis said. The device was a small battery box wrapped in plastic with push pins stuck on the outside, he said.
Parker was charged with making terrorist threats, transmitting a false alarm and using a hoax device and was booked into Walker County Jail on Monday, Mullis said.
When questioned, Parker told police he was "being stupid" and he was playing a prank to get out of class early, Mullis said.
But school officials and police didn't take the threat lightly.
Superintendent Melissa Mathis said in an e-mail that the school plans to discipline Parker "to the fullest extent possible and hopes that the district attorney will also pursue this case fully because of the severity of the situation."
In addition to the charges against Parker, the school system will have a disciplinary hearing to decide whether Parker should be suspended from school for several days or for the rest of the year, said Walker County Schools spokeswoman Elaine Womack. The board will be made up of faculty from other schools in the system.
After the threat was discovered Friday about 10 a.m., elementary school students and parents at the school for a spelling bee were evacuated along with the high school students and faculty, school officials said.
Local and state police were called to search the school and brought dogs to investigate, Mullis said. Students stood in the rain for more than an hour until buses could be sent to take them home.
This is the second threat made at LaFayette High this year, Mullis said. The first threat was found in a girls' bathroom and is still under investigation. But Parker is not a suspect in that case, Mullis said.
At the beginning of each school year, students are warned that bomb threats are a serious offense, Womack said.
"Students are well aware that bomb threats are taken seriously and never considered as innocent pranks," Mathis said.
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Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...