DEARBORN — As students return to the classrooms for in-person learning full time, parents are being asked to remind their children of school threats.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy issued a letter to school districts and parents encouraging them to have conversations with their students regarding threats to commit school violence.
“As periodic school shootings have become an unfortunate reality across the country, these incidents are naturally publicized in the news and social media,” the letter read. “Experience has taught us that the publicity of these school shooting events often prompts a small subset of students to make similar types of threats against their schools, teachers and/or fellow classmates.
“In many of these cases, the student who made the threat tells investigators that they were ‘just joking’ and seem genuinely shocked by how serious the consequences are for making the threat. Often, they make the threat thinking that it is not a big deal as long as they did not plan to actually carry it out. Michigan law, however, makes it a crime to make a threat, even if the person making the threat did not have the intent or the capability of actually carrying it out.”
The letter said that when a threat is made, it cannot be immediately known whether the threat is a serious one or if it is meant to be a so-called “prank”, so the law enforcement community is trained to take every threat seriously.
Please talk with your children. Help them understand that their words can have lifelong consequences. — Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy
“To not do so would be to put your child at risk and the community at risk, and we simply cannot take that chance,” the letter read. “My office takes these cases extremely seriously, not only because of the need to keep your child and the community safe, but also because of the disruption of the school environment and the significant expenditure of resources by the school and by law enforcement that even a ‘prank’ threat causes.”
Students who make threats can face sentences of up to 10 or 20 years in prison for an adult. The state legally recognizes anyone 17 or older as an adult.
Students can be charged with crimes such as false threat of terrorism or threat of terrorism and a new law enacted last year makes it a crime to threaten to commit violence against students or employees on school property.
In addition to potential legal consequences, making such threats could affect a student’s ability to get federal financial aid for college, cause them to lose college scholarships, cause them to be denied college admission and even result in them having to disclose pending cases or criminal convictions on job applications.
“Please talk with your children,” the letter read. “Help them understand that their words can have lifelong consequences. We know that in past school shootings, the individuals involved usually shared their plans with one or more of their peers, before they acted on those plans. Therefore, it is critical that you also encourage your children to report any threats that they hear about (including threats posted via social media, texts, emails, etc.) so that these tragic situations can be prevented before they have a chance to start. Stress to your children that reporting could be life-saving and that it is ‘always better to be safe than sorry.’”