School resource officers and police departments throughout South Florida have a message for any student who thinks it might be a funny prank to call in a threat to a school: it’s a serious crime with grave consequences. And they’re cracking down.
Law enforcement officials are taking any threat against a school seriously in the wake of the Parkland school shooting, as detailed in a recent South Florida Sun-Sentinel article.
A spokesman for Miami-Dade's school police force says the district was plagued with a rash of phony threats — about 50 a day, at one point — after the February attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 people dead and another 17 wounded. He also says a law enforcement crackdown combined with public vigilance dramatically reduced the number of threats.
For people over the age of 18, certain threats against a school could qualify as second-degree felonies, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison.
Most of the recent school threats have come from minors, so sentences tend to be less severe. Among the more disturbing incidents:
— A student who joked on social media that he planted explosives in the parking lot of his West Boca high school. The 18-year-old later told police he thought the joke "would be funny" and that he "didn't think it was a big deal."
— An 11-year-old girl from Nova Middle School who was arrested after writing a note threatening to kill students and teachers on Feb. 15, just one day after the Parkland massacre.
— A 17-year-old boy who posted on social media his intention of becoming a "professional school shooter" by targeting his own school, J.P. Taravella High in Coral Springs.
Just one week after the Parkland shooting, the Palm Beach County School District announced the release of a smartphone app called "Student Protect," which allows students, parents and school staff to report threats and suspicious activity directly to law enforcement.
A recent Palm Beach County Grand Jury report focusing on school safety applauded the creation of the app, but also stated that the district's "See Something, Say Something" campaign was falling short — chiefly because students were made to feel that any tips they provided about potential school threats were not being taken seriously.