Several news media reports showed that the number of criminal threats in Pennsylvania school grew in the wake of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead. Many experts have examined why students make threats that trigger fear and chaos and why that’s happening so often. For example, a recent news report in the Herald & Review states more than six school districts in York County responded to criminal threats many of which were made by students online or on social media.
PROLIFERATION OF SCHOOL THREATS
One Central York student, 13, was charged with 15 felony counts for school threats. In some cases, parents have also been charged for these threats. While experts believe threats such as these may be caused by many factors including young people’s desire for attention, they also believe a majority of young people who make the threats don’t intend to carry them out.
One psychologist told the Herald & Review that children and adolescents who make terroristic threats don’t play out the consequences in their heads before making them. Children lack the impulse control or sense of restraint to stop and think about the consequences of their words – even if they did not really mean them.
THE CONSEQUENCES ARE REAL
However, law enforcement officials say they are extremely serious about investigating each and every threat they receive, whether it’s made over the phone or online. This is because no law enforcement agency wants to bear the burden of ignoring a threat and see it carried out later.
Every school shooting has an enormous emotional and economic impact on entire communities across America. The Educator’s School Safety Network, which tracks criminal threats nationwide, has tracked 70 to 80 threats each day on school campuses. As of Feb. 23, days after the Florida attack, Pennsylvania had the fourth highest number of threats in the country.
TALK TO YOUR KIDS
As a result, we now have children facing felony criminal threat charges for saying words they didn’t mean. If you are a parent of children in junior high or high school, it is important that you have meaningful conversations with them about the potential consequences of making criminal threats. Do not talk down to your teens. Explain the law in a manner in which they can understand.
Give them the facts and talk to them about the consequences they would face if they were to make criminal threats, even as a joke. They shouldn’t post anything on social media that could even be interpreted as a threat. Show your children news reports of other students who are facing criminal felony charges and how that would impact their lives. Above all, talk to children about why this is wrong and how investigating a criminal threat takes significant resources away from parts of the community that need those resources badly. If your child has been arrested on suspicion of making a criminal threat, please contact our experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation.