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NEO schools face rash of threats. No matter if it’s credible, the punishment is severe.

What is the punishment for a school threat? Jail time.
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Posted at 7:55 AM, Dec 07, 2021

CLEVELAND — School safety amid a pandemic is the topic of conversation throughout the country.

“Unfortunately, school administrators are struggling with both a pandemic crisis and a crisis of increased violence, aggressive behavior and other safety concerns,” said Ken Trump, a national school safety consultant.

He said while schools adjust to in-person learning again, the country is also facing a safety concern we are far too familiar with.

“School threats have already been escalating, and we get an uptick after high profile events like the Michigan school shooting,” he said. “Schools need to have threat assessment teams, trainings and protocols in place. Many schools will receive threats. They will be unsubstantiated, not credible threats. But every threat has to be treated seriously, investigated thoroughly.”

He said most of the threats come through social media platforms.

“Young people need to know that once they press send, they can't put the threat back into the smartphone,” he said.

Monday, police arrested a middle-schooler in Lorain County who admitted to posting a threat on social media claiming an Elyria middle school would be ‘shot up’ Monday. The student is facing felony charges.

Trump is not surprised by the rash of threats to schools here in Northeast Ohio.

“Eventually, they'll be found. I think too many people believe that because they're on social media, they can't be traced or identified. Just the opposite,” he said.

He said local law enforcement has the means to track down the source of the threat.

“Digital footprints can be found here locally or whether they're across the state, border lines or even out of the country. Law enforcement has become quite adept at conducting investigations following cybercrimes and digital footprints and then getting the search warrants and investigative tools in place to go out and identify the threat maker.”

Unfounded or not, the punishment is severe.

“They are in a special category of crimes in the Ohio code that is labeled terrorism, and that's the types of charges that these students would be looking at,” said Michael Benza, a senior instructor of law at Case Western Reserve University.

He said in some cases, prosecutors will charge students as adults. Even if it is just a hoax, the charges start at a 3rd-degree felony.

“The juvenile may think that this is a prank. But the harm, the impact, whatever it is that gets caused, would make this into a felony conviction and this kid may be looking at multiple years in prison,” said Benza.

A prank that causes panic is no longer a prank in the eyes of the law.

“It's going to have a wide-ranging impact on this student's life. Whether they meant it or not, it doesn't matter,” he said. “Imagine trying to get a job with a conviction for terrorism on your resume.”

These threats can come with serious jail time.

“You're looking at really serious prison time when you're convicted of this type of offense, multiple years just to start and the end of it could even be up to, you know, a life sentence of some sort, depending on the number of charges.”