‘It’s no joke!’ Threats rise against schools

Thursday, October 31, 2019 0 Comments

Threats made against schools, employees or students are increasing, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools says it will not tolerate such acts.
Parents should be aware that threats – whether spoken, made over social media or even written on a bathroom wall – can be prosecuted as a felony offense at the state and federal levels.
And for a child who is arrested, that can mean
expulsion from school and even a 21 day sentence in a juvenile facility.
“It’s no joke!” is the campaign state and local authorities are promoting to try and get the message through to youngsters and their parents.
During the first eight weeks of the current school year, there were 24 threats and six students were arrested, Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, spokeswoman for the school district, said in a statement released to media.
During the last school year, the district investigated 115 threats and arrested 20 students, Gonzalez-Diego said.
When a threat happens, authorities cannot tell
whether it’s real, a prank or a hoax, she said.
Such threats create fear, disrupt learning and may divert police and firefighters from where they should be, she said.
The number of children charged with offenses
related to making threats against schools have increased 24 percent state-wide in the past three years, according to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.
In fiscal year 2016-2017, 629 children were charged; in 2017-2018, 687 kids were taken into custody, and last year, 779 juveniles were arrested.
A threat can include making false reports about a bomb, explosives or guns.
It’s illegal to have weapons or shoot guns on school property or at a school-sponsored event, and doing so can lead to arrest, the state says.
In Miami-Dade County, schools police try to prevent threats and jailing a child is the last resort, Gonzalez-
Diego said.
But police are coordinating with the state attorney’s
office, and will prosecute individuals who threaten schools, she said.
Children arrested on suspicion of threatening school violence will then have an arrest record, which can hamper efforts to get a job, apply for college loans or rent an apartment.
Anyone who knows of a threat can share it with a school official or police officer.
Tips may also be called in, anonymously, to schools police at 305-995-2677.
A free app called FortifyFL is another tool to report
suspicious activity.
Parents should remind their children about their rights and responsibilities.
They should also routinely review their kids’ social media and gaming use, authorities said.
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