Law enforcement will “vigorously investigate and prosecute” anyone who makes threats against schools.
That’s the message Detroit U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider and other law enforcement leaders made clear on Tuesday.
Schneider cited the “overwhelming” surge in online threats that have shut down schools across southeast Michigan in the weeks since the school massacre in Parkland, FL.
None of the threats appear to have been credible, but Schneider says law enforcement takes every one of them seriously. He warned that kids who make them face losing everything.
“When you make a threat, this is going to change your life forever,” Schneider said. “You risk expulsion, you lose going to college, you’ll lose your friends. And you’ll be humiliated and embarrassed, because you’re the person who caused the school to be shut down.”
Some kids caught making these online threats are facing even more severe consequences. Prosecutors in Metro Detroit have been charging students with making terrorist threats, a 20-year felony.
Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith says he’s charged 51 students with that crime just since the Parkland shootings. Eleven students are 17-year-olds being charged as adults.
Smith says he doesn’t like doing that, but the gravity of the situation warrants it. He says that besides causing fear and shutting down schools, the constant threats are sapping law enforcement resources.
“Nobody out there is saying, ‘Well, they’re just kids being kids.” Those days are long since over with, and we’re all here to stress that,” Smith said.
Smith and Schneider urged parents to be aware of what their kids are posting on social media. Schneider says the U.S. Attorney’s office has also developed a presentation for interested schools that stresses the serious consequences for making online threats.