HOUSTON – Last school year saw such a spike in threats to school campuses and students, the Harris County District Attorney's Office began tracking these cases and cracking down on those who caused panic.
The number of threats to schools and students spiked shortly after the shootings in Parkland and spiked again following the shootings in Santa Fe.
With a new school year underway, Channel 2 Investigates met with the head of the DA's juvenile division about a new approach to this problem.
“We have a game plan as to how we are going to react this year,” said prosecutor John Jordan.
Jordan and other prosecutors visited 10 school district police departments before the bell rang on a new school year. The point was to train officers in doing a more in-depth analysis of students accused of lobbing threats.
Last school year, the DA's office filed 216 criminal charges against kids issuing threats; 88 percent of those cases involved first-time offenders, and half involved 13-14-year-olds. Jordan said the new approach aims to better weed out cases of kids just saying something stupid without realizing the consequences.
“We're trying to distinguish that from a person who could potentially, really cause a lot of alarm,” said Jordan.
Jordan said before charges are filed, they now want officers to look at a student's history of conduct, talk to their teachers and friends, find out if they actually have access to a weapon and talk to parents.
“It seemed to us parents were as mortified as we were,” said Jordan.
Since the DA's office and school districts began cracking down on anyone making a threat, idle or not, the number of cases has gone down significantly. Jordan said five cases were filed in August and four cases have been filed this month.
“When they see their classmates going to jail or be involved in the criminal justice system, and going back and telling them that, maybe they'll be a little bit more careful about what they say,” said Jordan.