by Larry Little
January 12th, administrators at Center High School evacuated students and dismissed early after authorities say eight girls used a cell phone to call in a bomb threat. All eight were arrested and taken to a Longview Juvenile Detention Center.
Friday, the high school girls appeared in court, but they didn't come alone.
"I think that things could have been handled more discreetly. I watched our kids on their knees, being shackled hand and feet. As a minister, I thought it was demoralizing," says Rev. Harold Cloudy.
Tabitha Williams, a parent of one of the accused girls, spent most of the day in court. "My child was offered a plea bargain - probation - in court, and I declined, and they released her to my custody. I just don't think it happened the way they say it happened," Williams said.
In court Friday, the judge sent one of the accused back to the detention center, and three girls accepted plea bargains. They will be on probation for one year and write letters of apology to authorities. Two others opted for a jury trial. The judge conditionally released one of the teens to her mother, and another teen's court date was rescheduled.
Community leaders say this crime shouldn't be taken lightly, but the justice system needs to understand they are dealing with children. "No one should go free for any wrongdoing. We have to understand we are dealing with young minds. Young minds and young kids make mistakes, but I don't think you should kill them. Give them a chance," say Cloudy.
Two of the accused girls will be back in court on March 5th.