It is good news — the best news, actually — that came from Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell late last week: The graffiti threats found in the bathrooms at Ashe County Middle School have been determined to not be “credible.”

So, what does this mean?

Of course, it means that parents, faculty, staff and our entire community can breathe a sigh of relief that what was purported on those walls was not a real threat and not a precursor to the grief and sorrow whose depths are known to only those who outlived tragedies such as those in Parkland and Sandy Hook.

But it means more, doesn’t it? So much more.

It means that our law enforcement officers, school administrators, staff and, yes, our community, have paid a price for what officers say is a hoax.

That price, even beyond the cost of anguish and concern, is very real when translated to numbers: the hours officers, staff and responders are expending on this investigation, the resources required for such in-depth examination and the time lost in terms of education and work.

Because of this, perhaps the best news coming from the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office is that the investigation is yet ongoing — and may be for some time.

While we would like to put this incident behind us, we cannot. Not yet.

We support fully the ACSO’s work and use of our limited resources for this ongoing investigation. This may prove to be something done on a whim by an immature party. Or it may not. In either case, a reckoning is due. The climates in our schools both here and across the nation are ever a hairs-breadth away from tragedy. Sadly, we have had too many examples of this. Sadly, such sentiment has come even to Ashe County: That we would even consider that such an event could happen here indicates the seriousness of the crime.

There is a cost to pay and an example to make. The writing is on the wall. The results for misguided and potentially dangerous actions such as these cannot go unpunished.

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