Editorials

Students who threaten to shoot up a school need to learn the hard way that it’s not a joke | Editorial

They are sad, disturbing societal aberrations — that are becoming much too common: the recent rash of threats from students in Miami-Dade leveled against their own schools, their own classmates.

Always on social media, they go something like this: “I’m gonna shoot up this or that school on this date …”

On Wednesday, police were sent to SLAM Charter Middle/High School in Miami over alleged threats to other students or the school. And recently, two boys from Howard D. McMillan Middle School in West Kendall have been accused of threatening the school on social media.

The students — one 13, the other 14 — were arrested Tuesday. They have been charged with a felony.

Last month, at Christopher Columbus High School, a student was arrested after allegedly posting a music video suggesting violence toward La Salle High School, Belen Jesuit Preparatory School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

Charges against the teen later were dropped, but not before a commotion at the school and the community.

Frightened and traumatized, other kids report these threats. The sad reality is that, these days, no one can treat any threat as a hoax. We commend those alarmed students for saying something when they see something.

The adults in these jokesters’ lives must take kids’ threats — or their potential to make them — just as seriously. The goal is to thwart them.

Since the beginning of the school year in August, the Miami-Dade school district has received 18 threats; five have resulted in arrests, according to the district. That’s almost 20 threats in less than two months.

The nagging question remains: Why would students do this? A cry for attention, a way to feel powerful and a sign of immaturity are obvious answers.

When they land in front of a Miami-Dade judge, which is just where they should be, their response is often, “I was just kidding.” Really?

The bottom line: These teenage threat-makers are bullies, terrorizing not just one other kid but hundreds of fellow students by conjuring the terror of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High or Sandy Hook or Columbine.

Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the Editorial Board that the district has zero tolerance toward threat-makers. The district should keep that airtight. Carvalho finds himself fighting two battles, keeping students safe from potential — and real — active shooters and, now, from those who are making things up.

“I have been very strong on this issue, as it drains resources, disrupts instruction and forces temporary deployment of law enforcement from assigned posts,” Carvalho told the Board.

In the hopes of curbing threats posted online, the district is sponsoring Digital Citizenship Week Oct. 14-18, stressing the responsible use of social media.

No one wants to see a teen’s life derailed by a criminal charge, but the consequences of such threats must be drilled into a teenager’s head.

And yes, parents need to step it up and play a bigger role at stopping this reprehensible outbreak. None of this “He’s a good boy, your honor,” claptrap. These kids do need attention — the right kind. They should at least spend time in juvenile diversion programs. Their “pranks” could very well lead to worse behavior if not stopped now.

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