Schools across the country have received threats against students at seven times the normal rate in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Fla., according to the Educator’s School Safety Network.
The safety network (ESSN) has measured 797 reported threats since the Parkland shooting that took the lives of 17 Florida teenagers, The Associated Press reported Monday. Nearly 750 of the threats involved guns or bombs and over 400 of the threats were made verbally or through social media, according to ESSN Program Director Amy Klinger. Klinger expects punishments for making threats to become much more severe after Parkland, she told reporters.
“The mentality has shifted in a very short period of time from kids being kids to this is very serious stuff,” she said. “Do we want to do this for the rest of the school year? Do we want to have this constant chaos and fear, and people being upset? How much learning is going on?”
One Florida school district has charged 15 students with felonies for their part in another threat, and another autistic Minnesota student is facing charges for the same. His case is very different, however, and many of his teachers are saying he needs treatment rather than legal punishment.
“When verbal or written threats are made, they are usually an attempt to express the severity of the adolescent’s distress,” wrote Claire Berrett, who set up a GoFundMe for the boy’s family. “It is not necessarily a true indication of a desire to hurt themselves or others. They do not have the social awareness to recognize this is the wrong thing to say.”
Others question whether legal penalties are fitting for even mentally sound students who make threats in the wake of shootings. The news coverage results in a bevy of copycat threats that virtually never come to fruition. Often, students making crass and immoral jokes in the classroom don’t realize that it could end with them behind bars.
“Kids make bad decisions and I think that in decades past those decisions would have been addressed behind closed doors with the principal and parents,” said Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services. “Now they’re being addressed behind closed doors in the police station and the courtroom.”
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