Prosecutors Cite Difficulty In Curbing, Charging Copycat School Threats

Feb 25, 2018
Originally published on February 23, 2018 5:11 pm

There have been nearly 100 threats leveled against schools in the wake of the Valentine's Day shooting at a South Florida High School. Many of those who issued the threats are teens and students themselves. Some have claimed they were just, "joking." Law enforcement officials say they take all threats seriously and many student have been arrested for them, some, are facing felony charges. But whether those charges will stick is another matter, and state prosecutors say there's no law on the books that bans threats against schools. The ones that are in place for general threats of violence, are in need of updates. Second Judicial Circuit State Attorney Jack Campbell says it comes down one question: Was the threat implicit, or explicit?

Prosecutors are having a hard time figuring out how to charge the numerous students who have leveled copycat threats in the wake of a shooting at a South Florida high school. The problem? Many of the threats are vague and done on social media, which current state laws don't address. And just alluding to violence sometimes isn't enough to make charges stick.

“The laws as currently written in state statute don’t allow us to criminally charge people based purely on that kind of language," said State Attorney Jack Campbell, who represents the 2nd Judicial Circuit in North Florida and the Big Bend.

Lawmakers are considering toughening laws to make leveling threats against schools a crime. And there are measures to add social and electronic media to current threat laws. Three Leon County students, along with one in Wakulla another in Liberty, two in Okaloosa and one in Bay county were arrested this week alone for issuing threats online and in social media against schools. Some are facing second degree felony charges for making written or oral threats.

Florida Public Radio station WGCU has been tracking threats leveled against schools in the wake of the Parkland shooting. Nearly 100 have been logged as of the date of this story.

View Threats Against Florida Schools Since Parkland in a full screen map

The map was created by WGCU's Alexandra Figares and Rachel Iacovone.

Copyright 2018 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.