School threats prompt proposals for tougher penalties

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Emailed threats to Los Angeles and New York City highlight worries schools face.

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Taking a harder line on crimes no longer seen as juvenile pranks, state lawmakers around the U.S. are proposing stiffer penalties for people who threaten schools at a time of fears over terrorism and mass shootings. LOS ANGELES — With school back in session in Los Angeles on Wednesday, parents resumed the weekday routines that were thrown into chaos by the districtwide closure on Tuesday.But their reactions were dramatically different Tuesday to the same threat of a large-scale jihadi attack with guns and bombs — LA canceled all its classes while New York dismissed the warning as a hoax.The Los Angeles Unified School District (LASUD) — the second-largest school district in the country — closed its more than 900 campuses and 187 public charter schools Tuesday after receiving an electronic bomb threat, keeping about 640,000 students out of school. As demonstrated by Tuesday’s shutdown of Los Angeles schools, threats can cause large, costly disruptions and traumatize students even in cases that might involve hoaxes.

And even though the threat from the previous day had been deemed a hoax, it left many parents shaken and wary of sending their children back to class, aware that schools remained soft potential targets. The divergent responses from the nation’s two biggest K-12 public school systems reflected what many in school security know: That deciding whether a threat is credible is hardly a mathematical process and the stakes in staying open or closing are high.

LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines told reporters all schools were inspected following the threat, a move that may have also incurred a large cost, given the number of schools inspected. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton suggested that the author of the threats is most likely a “Homeland” fan, saying the outlandish hoax read like a screenplay from the drama. “The instigator of the threat may be a ‘Homeland’ fan,” Commissioner Bratton said, Variety reported. “Basically, watching ‘Homeland’ episodes that it mirrors.” “There has been some initial reporting that it may have come from an IP address out of Germany. While most states already have laws that allow prosecution of a school threat as a felony, there have proposals across the U.S. to increase punishments, said Michael Dorn, executive director of the school safety nonprofit group Safe Havens International. “These things keep happening, and they’re happening too often,” said Wisconsin state Rep. Across the nation, small and large districts regularly encounter the challenge of deciphering threats, complicated today by more sophisticated technology that can make them harder to trace. Commissioner Bratton blasted Los Angeles officials for overreacting to the threat, which came in the form of a “generic” email to many cities around the country.

It’s extremely rare for a major U.S. city to close all its schools because of a threat and it reflected the lingering unease in Southern California following the attack that killed 14 people at a holiday luncheon two weeks ago in San Bernardino. “If this was not ISIS, not a terror organization, they’re nonetheless watching,” Rep. There’s a high level of anxiety.” Brooks has proposed legislation that would make a public death threat a medium-grade felony, with more severe consequences if anybody is hurt during an evacuation. He submitted the proposal after hearing from a police chief about a case in which a threat on Facebook led to school evacuations but the suspect could not be charged with anything more serious than disorderly conduct. It’s going to be Mom or Dad.” He said he would have to make special arrangements at work to bring her to school earlier. “The bus, it’s a soft target,” Mr. Ken Trump, president of the firm, said schools leaders faced with a threat they don’t believe is credible sometimes let community anxiety rule the decision to evacuate or close, even though children might be safer in school than sent home where they could be left unsupervised.

Tony Hwang said Tuesday that he intends to reintroduce a bill that would that would beef up the state’s threatening laws, making them more serious felonies. She sent her son to school with a cellphone to give herself a little more peace of mind. “It’s a difficult time right now,” she said. “I told him to call me if something happens. Victor Asal, chair of public administration at the State University of New York at Albany, said the decision each district made was reflective of their respective experiences. The threat “was not to one school, two schools or three schools,” he said at a news conference Tuesday morning. “It was many schools, not specifically identified. … That’s the reason I took the action that I did.” Lupita Vela, who has a daughter in the third grade and a son who is a high school senior, called the threat “absolutely terrifying” in light of the San Bernardino attack. “I don’t want this to be in the back of her head,” she said. “Who knows what it does psychologically to kids?

Kolantes said, adding that he was also considering buying a gun. “We came here because of the security in Israel, so it’s ironic.” Despite their concerns over safety, however, other parents were determined not to let it affect them — by not changing their routines or altering anything else about the way they take care of their children. “I’m not erring on the side of fear,” Rusty Tinder, 44, said after dropping off his 5-year-old son. “I feel really good about the safety in our school system.” Mr.

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