The slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has affected all of us in South Florida. It has certainly opened our eyes to many of the gaps in the assessment and response to potential risk before a crisis occurs. I hope we have the courage as a community and a state to properly address these gaps.
Each year, my prosecutors work with Miami Dade Schools Police Department and other local agencies to investigate numerous threats made against our local schools. We, in law enforcement, have always treated each threat as credible. When necessary, my specialized Cyber Crime prosecutors put everything aside to identify and find the threat actor as quickly as possible. However, Florida’s criminal statutes offer no protections to institutions such as schools. The law covers threats directed only toward individuals.
In late 2016, Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal overturned a conviction for a juvenile convicted of written threats to kill or do bodily harm. The juvenile offender made multiple posts on social media, threatening to “shoot up” his school.
One of the posts included a photo of a firearm. The appellate court reversed the offender’s conviction and found that the threats did not violate Florida law. The court stated that it could not “add words not included by the legislature” and that the current statutory language was “very limited.”
Pending in the Florida Legislature are House Bill 165 and Senate Bill 310, which seek to amend Florida Statute 836.10 to include situations in which threats are made against schools. Such a change would give law enforcement one of the necessary tools to ensure that no child feels unsafe at school because of online threats.
11th Judicial Circuit of Florida,