Editorials

It’s No Joke: The law is coming after you if you threaten to shoot up a school | Editorial

Let’s hope this gets the message across. The Miami-Dade School District and the state attorney’s office are joining forces to stamp out a sinister outbreak: a disturbing spike in threats to shoot up a school, made by Miami-Dade students. This partnership is welcome news.

Last week, the Miami Herald Editorial Board expressed its exasperation with these frightening and disruptive threats. Since then, others have been made. So kudos to these two agencies with the power to punish for uniting in this crackdown wrapped in an awareness campaign.

Tuesday’s news conference sent a public declaration to students and, especially, their parents: These threats are not funny, and you likely will be prosecuted, leaving a stain on your record.

Here’s what a student wrote in the latest incident:

“I am going to attempt to mass murder on Monday, October 7 at G. Holmes [Braddock] Senior High. You have the warning, don’t be surprised when I walk into your class and start shooting everyone. You have been pre notified of this special event on Monday. Thank you and I hope many of you will show up. I am looking forward to it.

PS you may invited (sic) your friends the more the merrier.”

Maybe paying attention in an English class to nail down the the basics of grammar would be a better pursuit for this student.

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced Tuesday that she is joining school district officials to launch the “It’s No Joke” campaign to warn students that they will be prosecuted if they make or post an online threat toward a school.

A law passed after the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that makes written threats to kill, do bodily injury or conduct a mass shooting a second-degree felony might not have been much of a deterrent. Maybe now it will be. “Online” is the new “written.”

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said school police have vetted 24 threats in the first quarter of the school year, leading to the arrest of six students, including a 15-year-old at G. Holmes Braddock Senior High on Monday who is accused of posting online the threat quoted above. Somehow, the message that making threats is a reprehensible crime has to be drilled into some students.

Rundle said students arrested on those charges undergo a psychological evaluation, face expulsion and could be detained up to three weeks on felony charges. We think the psych evaluation is essential. It’s likely that not every student is a mere prankster. Rather, some are making threats to call attention to themselves, or because there are deeper problems at play in their lives.

It’s crucial, too, that mental health and juvenile diversion services be available should either one be the post-evaluation recommendation.

Punishment is important; promoting healing is humane and preventive.

Carvalho said the district is considering ways in which parents can be held responsible for their child’s threatening posts. For example, the Florida Legislature could hold parents accountable for having weapons accessible to their children, as some threats feature a photo of a child posing with a weapon in their home, he told the Herald.

Until then, Carvalho has a threat of his own for these threat-making students: “Make no mistake, we will prosecute to the full extent of the law,” he said. As a community, we can ensure it’s a threat that’s taken seriously.

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