Could Allowing Cell Phones at Schools Keep Your Children Safe?

Parents, teachers and administrators often lament the proliferation of cell phones among teens. Yet a girl in Utah recently used her phone to help thwart a Columbine-style attack. Her heroism suggests that cell phones could play a useful role in keeping children safe.

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A Life-Saving Text Message

When 16-year-old Bailey Gerhardt received a text message from one of her classmates, she knew something was wrong. The text, which came from a 16-year-old boy at her school, asked, 'If I told you to stay home on a certain day, would you?' This prompted Bailey to contact the police in her local community of Roy, Utah, which is about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City.

What began as a simple text message became a full-scale investigation that involved police interviewing several dozen students. Eventually, an alleged bomb plot against Roy High School was discovered and confirmed by police. Two students, the 16-year-old who sent the text and his 18-year-old accomplice, were pulled from school and arrested. Now Bailey is being hailed as a hero for potentially saving the lives of hundreds of her classmates by acting on the text.

An Elaborate Plot

Prior to its ignominious end, the two teens' preparations were conspicuously thorough. The teens were fascinated by the 1999 mass shootings at Colorado's Columbine High School. They tried to learn everything they could about what worked and what failed for the Columbine shooters.

In December, the younger teen traveled to the Denver area to interview Frank DeAngelis, Columbine's principal. He pretended to be a reporter for his school newspaper. Of particular interest to the student was how the school had taken measures to secure its students following the tragedy. The Utah teens were keenly aware of their own school's security systems, including the locations of security cameras.

In addition to their careful study of security and how to overcome it, the Utah pair had developed an escape plan. After the bombing, they intended to steal a plane and leave the country. They logged hundreds of hours on flight simulation software to prepare.

Lessons To Be Learned

A cell phone was instrumental in stopping a potentially devastating attack on innocent high school students. In the investigation that followed the text, police found a pattern of suspicious behavior. However, it was the text message that provided the concrete evidence to launch the search. While teen cell phone use may be frequently maligned, especially the rampant texting, the case in Utah provides an example of when texting has the power to save lives.

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