Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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Students can face real consequences for making threats at school

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Students can face real consequences for making threats at school
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The Connecticut school shooting combined with all the talk of the end of the Mayan calendar has police and school administrators busy dealing with threats to schools. Those school officials and prosecutors are tasked with determining the credibility of each threat, finding those responsible, and making it very clear that there are consequences. Our Candace Hopkins tells us just how involved that process can be.


NEW YORK -- It's a problem schools face year-round, often times unreported. But schools have been dealing with an increased number of threats in the past week.

In an effort to discourage copycats, it is YNN's policy, not to report any of these threats, unless they are deemed credible by investigating agencies or an arrest is made. Arrests were made in two local school districts this week. In the Chittenango School District a student was overheard talking about bringing a gun to school.

"We notified the police, the police came up, the police interviewed the witnesses and found them credible, and ended up escorting the boy who made the threat out of the building and took him down to the police station," said Chittenango School Superintendent Michael Schiedo.

The 16-year-old student was arrested. He now faces a misdemeanor charge of falsely reporting an incident. Administrators say they want to send a clear message that even threats made in jest will not be tolerated.

"I think especially since Columbine any threats that have been posted and/or made verbally have been taken seriously in all school districts and so students know enough, they're bright enough to understand right and wrong and they need to make the right decision," said Schiedo.

The Onondaga County District Attorney's office says the punishment for making a threat can vary, based on several factors. They include how credible the threat was, and who the target was.

"Is it a threat, is it something as stupid as bullying, is it a threat that is directed towards one individual because there's a beef going on, or is it a threat that involves the entire school, a civilian population," said Rick Trunfio, the Onondaga County First Chief Assistant District Attorney.

Another important factor is determining if the person has the ability to carry out the threat. For example, do they have access to guns or other weapons? Investigators look at all of these factors. But they say the most important thing to remember is that any threat, big or small, needs to be reported.

"That can only be done with proper law enforcement investigation, school administrators can't do it themselves, they have to notify the police...it brings a heightened level of sensitivity, and school administrators should ensure that they take no chances," said Trunfio.

Although the Chittenango student was only charged with a misdemeanor, in some cases a suspect can be charged with a felony for making a terroristic threat.

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