What Happens If My Child is Arrested at School for Making Threats?

Student arrested for making threats at schoolSchool gun violence has been a serious topic for the last couple of years. Since the Parkland school shooting that occurred on February 14, 2018, schools and law enforcement have enacted much stricter policies for teens and preteens who make threats in school or about the school via social media.  The first school massacre in modern U.S. history was the Columbine massacre in 1999. Over the last decade, these occurrences have sadly become all too familiar. Kids have made threats for years, sometimes just in a joking manner, toward each other or the school. But because kids have increasingly followed through on these threats, they’re being taken more seriously now. As a result, children might be charged with a criminal offense after saying or posting that they’re going to harm someone – whether they mean it or not. 

If your child is arrested at school for making threats, it’s essential to understand how the criminal justice system regards these threats and if/how your child will be prosecuted. Let’s take a closer look at that.

What Constitutes an Arrest for Children in School?

For a child to get arrested, they only need to make a threat to another person. Whether that threat is viably something they can actually follow through on is insignificant. Law enforcement and schools take risks very seriously. Since the Parkland school massacre, school administrators and police are both much more aware of children’s activities on social media and on school property. 

When a child is arrested, the arresting officer(s) takes the child to the local station for an interview. Police will usually consider the child’s history and background, along with public safety issues, before determining whether to file criminal charges. 

Many times, the child is given a mental health assessment to determine if this is subsequent behavior stemming from psychological issues. Police also interview the parents to get a full picture of the child’s background. If the child is arrested, they’ll be taken to juvenile court. Judges in juvenile court have a lot of discretion on how they sentence a juvenile, based on what they see fit. 

How Does Social Media Play a Role in Juvenile Arrests?

Since the beginning of time, children have always made thoughtless and hasty decisions. That might be because they’re trying to impress their friends or are lashing out because they’re stressed by teachers, homework, or interactions with other students. In the past, comments made at the bus stop or during lunch were in one ear and out the other – then kids went about their day as usual. The difference today is we’ve seen kids follow through on these complaints and voiced frustrations with acts of violence. Now, when students make threats – they’re taken seriously. Even if the thought of kids carrying out that threat seems absurd, these threats are no longer taken lightly. 

When kids voice their frustrations or simply want to gain attention, they often turn to social media as their platform. As soon as they hit “post,” what they’ve written is visible to other kids, and can be accessed by law enforcement and school authorities. Over the last year, the media have reported on kids getting arrested for fake school-shooting threats. 

One report from October detailed a high schooler in Oakland, Ohio posting a Snap on Snapchat saying, “You aren’t even prepared for tomorrow.” This comment was vague enough that it could mean nothing or mean something. Regardless, police showed up at his house that night to investigate whether this was a warning of school violence to come. The teen was never charged, and police sent a message to parents saying that they don’t believe the teen represented a threat. Even so, the student hasn’t been allowed to that school since posting the Snap. 

What are the Penalties for Making Threats in School?

Students who are charged after making a threat to harm another student or to the school can be placed in juvenile detention. If a child is arrested and/or sent into custody, that can be traumatizing and effective enough to prevent the child from repeating the act. On the other hand, a child who’s charged with making a threat and thrown into the juvenile justice system is looking at serious long-term consequences. Juvenile criminal records are not automatically sealed when children reach 18 years of age. Depending on the charge, this can haunt a child as they go into adulthood and hurt their chances of getting into college or gaining employment. An impulsive text, post, word, or hand motion can have life-altering consequences.  

Protect Your Child by Choosing Orlando’s Experienced Juvenile Defense Attorney

Children don’t always think before acting. If your child is being prosecuted for a thoughtless word or hand motion that finds them facing criminal charges or expelled from school – contact an experienced juvenile defense attorney to help. The Umansky Law Firm has a proven track record of success, helping families facing the juvenile court system and will help you too. Call them by phone at (407) 228-3838 or fill out one of our contact forms today for your complimentary consultation.