HOUSTON - The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is reporting another spike in threats to students and campuses following the murders at Santa Fe High School last Friday. An unsettling trend the DA’s Office first saw following the school shootings in Parkland, Florida last February.
“Threats to shoot up the school, threats to harm teachers or to harm other students,” said John Jordan, head of the juvenile division of the District Attorney’s Office.
Jordan said the murders in Parkland and Santa Fe show why threats to schools can no longer be handled as a simple discipline problem or stupid prank. The DA's Office is criminally charging kids for making threats.
“They can't take their chances on someone, 'oh, I was just joking, oh, I didn't mean it,' because you never know who the next shooter is going to be,” said Jordan.
Jordan said just since the shootings on Friday, the DA's Office filed charges against 24 kids for making threats, the office has filed a total of 150 of these cases since the Parkland shootings.
Jordan said the number of cases filed by the DA’s against students making threats began to decline in the last few weeks, but spiked again following the shootings in Santa Fe.
“All we can do is take people at their word and if a youth says, 'I'm going to shoot up the school,' how else should we interpret that?” said Jordan.
Jordan said those charged with threatening schools and students mostly range in age from 12-16. He also said some cases involve 10 and 11 year olds.
Jordan adds not charging someone with threatening a school would undermine what teachers, parents and law enforcement have been pleading with students to do—‘if you see a potential problem, tell someone.’
“If students are going to be brave enough and say, ' this is what I heard another student say, ' we need to act,” Jordan said. “The last thing in the world we're going to do is to ignore what they tell us.”
Jordan points outs the DA's Office is not being heavy handed with these cases; scrutinizing every call from campuses and police officers to make sure the nature of threat does in fact cross a legal line. He also said when it comes to punishment, prosecutors will take into account whether a child has a history of causing trouble or if it's a case of a basically a good kid who just made a stupid mistake.
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