DETROIT – Police are cracking down on students who make school threats. Any child who makes a threat can expect officials to search their home, and prosecutors could charge them with making terrorist threats.
School attacks in America result in injury or death an average of more than once per week. There is a zero-tolerance policy, even if threats are intended as jokes.
There have been close to 100 school threats of violence in Metro Detroit this year, ranging from bathroom notes to posts on social media. Now, all threats are investigated.
"When you use Snapchat or Facebook or Instagram, it's not anonymous," Matthew Schneider, attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said. "Law enforcement can find out who you are. It's not that difficult for us to track devices, and we're doing it every day."
Schneider has teamed up with the FBI and police to go school-to-school with a warning.
"'Well, I wasn't really going to shoot up the school. I wasn't going to blow up anything. I wasn't going to hurt that person,'" Schneider said. "By the time you make the threat, you are already guilty of the crime. There is no defense that 'I didn't mean to scare.'"
Those caught are facing expulsion from school and criminal charges.
"No one wants any children ever to go to jail, but we need to send a message," Schneider said. "It's a possibility a judge will send you there."
Children who hit send on social media with a threat are on the hook for serious charges. Children at Norup International School in Berkley got the message.
"This isn't a joke," seventh-grader Dakya Bunningham said. "It's not funny at all. We need to stop."
What stuck with the students most was that they could face long prison terms if convicted.
"A lot of people were scared about the years you can get for this," seventh-grader Misi Farquharson said. "Like 20 or 40 years."
"Think about what you are doing and how it affects everyone around you," eighth-grader Amelia Karp said.
"We don't want our children to end up on the news," Norup International School Principal Paul Yowchuang said. "We don't want them prosecuted. We have high hopes for them."
"When you decide to make a threat, you can change your life forever, and it will never be the same," Schneider said.
Every threat has to be taken as if it's the real deal, officials said. That can mean anything from canceling school to sending out SWAT teams and bomb squads. Parents are urged to talk to their children about the seriousness of making threats because after the crimes are committed, charges will be coming, police said.
It has cost some individual police departments tens of thousands of dollars to handle the school threat cases, and prosecutors said they will seek reimbursement from the families of those who make threats.