Threats to Schools are no joke
By: María Alejandra Pulgar
@marialepulgar – NAHJ #37172
DORAL, FL – Hoax threats to schools are no joke and investigations to clear them and ensure safety are expensive. Students need to understand that and parents need to enforce the message.
According to reports from Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS), to the month of February, there have been 60 cases of social media, verbal or written threats to schools in the district and 12 students were arrested after an investigation. No threat is disregarded and with the support of the communities, responsible parties have been detected and prosecuted.
However, while the investigation is ongoing parents and students get anxious and many choose to be absent in the spirit of being “better safe than sorry.” The massive shootings that happened in Columbine, Sandy Hook and last year in Parkland are a constant fear in the minds of parents that, regardless of seeing many safety measures implemented at schools, prefer to keep their children at home until an all-clear message is received from the school.
“Hoax threats disrupt the schools’ educational environment and interfere with police officers’ ability to protect schools from real dangers; drain law enforcement resources; cost taxpayers’ money, and increase stress levels, anxiety and absenteeism” explains the report from MDCPS.
Allowing students to miss school for fear is not the solution. Communication and supervision from families is the answer to prevent students from taking actions that affect the whole community.
Parental involvement is the key to prevention
Parents and guardians need to supervise their children and discuss the impact of hoax threats with them. Open communication channels within families help prevent students from committing actions that will permanently damage their school record. Consequences are very serious for the irresponsible behavior of a hoax threat. Those are not pranks, those are crimes, and those who commit them are prosecuted.
Superintendent Carvalho said in a statement that the arrest to students that played the hoax pranks “demonstrate clearly and unequivocally that Miami-Dade County Public Schools has a zero-tolerance policy related to this type of activity.”
“Parents and students must understand that any threat – real or fabricated – to schools and students is a serious matter. It is unacceptable, and those involved in such activity will be prosecuted. Prank and hoax threats made against a school are counterproductive to the life-saving work of law enforcement and compromise the safety of everyone.”
Schools Police Chief Edwin Lopez explained that threats, even prank threats, against schools are considered federal crimes, a very serious charge, that can lead to arrest and felony records. “Any and all threats will be thoroughly investigated, and perpetrators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law [..] This is not something worth risking your freedom and your future over.” Federal charges could carry a sentence of five years in prison posing a lasting impact on the future of a student. And, in addition, state charges can be applied as well.
Children need to know about it, think about it, and understand the consequences. Only involved parents and guardians can support the school and police departments on the task to make sure that the message is heard and understood.
Safety measures implemented at schools
The events at Parkland last year prompted the implementation of many additional safety measures and protocols, not only in MDCPS but all over the State and the country.
Among those safety measures are:
– Minimize points of entry at schools
– Mandatory identification badges
– Implementation of Visitor Management System (VMS) to screen visitors to school sites
– More security cameras
– Memorandums of understanding with 18 local police agencies to increase the police presence and hiring more officers for MDCPS police
– Expansion “See Something, Say Something” Campaign
– Update of Operating procedures in case of active shooters
– Created Department of Mental Health Services and hiring 30 coordinators to assist and provide counseling to at-risk students and their families
– Mental wellness programs to prevent bullying, create awareness and a culture of respect
– Increased communication to inform parents and students of services available and improve outreach in case of emergencies. Use of social media to raise awareness of using the hashtags #SeeSomethingSaySomething and #SafetyFirstMDCPS
See something, say something. Always
MDCPS Police Department has ever worked closely with the City of Doral Police to coordinate efforts and guarantee the safety and welfare of students, teachers, and staff at Doral schools. All law enforcement agencies work together to investigate every single threat that is received and to keep the community informed as soon as possible.
A vigilant community is the most effective danger prevention tool. “Through the ‘See Something, Say Something initiative,’ anyone who witnesses suspicious activity is encouraged to call 305-995-COPS or contact the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) via tips.fbi.gov or phone (1-800-CALL-FBI).” In Doral, public can report non-emergencies to 305-593-6699, #7 or 305-471-8477.