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Threats to schools can cost districts big bucks

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Three threats have been made to Central Texas schools in the last two weeks. While school districts take every threat seriously, releasing information about any potential safety risk often means a drop in attendance resulting in a loss of funds for schools.

On April 24, students at Anderson High School in North Austin were evacuated after a bomb threat was called in. The next day, Lake Travis ISD parents were notified about a cryptic message found on the high school campus that read, "There will be blood 4-26-13." A week later, a similar threat was discovered at Westlake High School.

Luckily, the threats were just that, but each one meant a major disruption to the school day. "That is time we cannot recover, time we cannot get back," said Lake Travis ISD spokesperson Marco Alvarado.

Lake Travis ISD parents were sent a letter from the superintendent notifying them of the threat and that additional officers would be on campus that day. The district urged parents to send their kids to school, but left that decision up to them.

"We've got to make sure we do everything we can to create a safe environment for our students and what does that mean? Going through the full motions and treating that as if it were going to happen," Alvarado said.

At Lake Travis ISD there was a significant drop in attendance the day of the threat. District wide, 25 percent of students did not go to school. At the high school, more than a third of students were absent. At Westlake High School, attendance was down to 65 percent the day of that threat.

"If a school were to have hundreds of students absent that day, it would be a significant loss in revenue," said Texas Education Agency spokesperson Debbie Ratcliffe.

On average, Texas schools are paid $35 per student, per day. District can apply for a low attendance waiver from the state in order to avoid a cut in funding. While there is no state law requiring districts to notify parents of threats, most say parents have the right to know and that's just part of taking every threat seriously, no matter how small it may seem.

"I think we've probably never had a time where people have been more aware of campus safety and security than today unfortunately because of tragic events," said Ratcliffe.

Those threats are still being investigated. According to police, making a bomb threat to a school is a third degree felony.

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