It's no secret that bomb threats and other threats of violence frequently occur in Kentucky's schools, but as the occurrences of school violence are on the rise the impact of those threats, even the empty threats, hits students harder. In response, Marshall County Schools Superintendent Trent Lovett has put parents/guardians and students on notice the district intends to crack down, effective immediately.
In a sternly-worded letter issued by Lovett's office last week, he stated threats against the district's students and school staff "are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated." He went on to say in the case of a threat of school violence, school staff will coordinate with responding law enforcement agencies to pursue "immediate legal charges for terroristic threatening in the second degree (which is a felony), to the absolute fullest extent of the law against anyone who makes such threats, including students."
"Moreover, we will ask that the prosecution of these individuals be swift and their punishment, severe," the letter reads in part.
Attached to the letter was the Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 508.078 which defines terroristic threatening in the second degree. The law applies to a person who makes false statements by any means, including by electronic communication, for the purpose of: causing evacuation of a school building, school property, or school-sanctioned activity; causing cancellation of school classes or school-sanctioned activity; creating fear of serious bodily harm among students, parents or school personnel.
The definition also states terroristic threatening in the second degree is a Class C felony, which qualifies for a sentence of 5-10 years in a state penal institution.
Lovett's letter stated Kentucky's P-12 schools have experienced a continual rash of terroristic threats from students with intent to do harm to either other students or school staff members.
"Plainly stated, these are threats being made to shoot people or detonate bombs with the intent to kill people," the letter reads in part.
Between Jan. 23 and April 30 of 2018, the letter stated, Kentucky schools experienced 294 terroristic threats. Lovett acknowledged in many of those cases, the schools were forced to close schools while law enforcement investigated the incident. Further, Lovett stated in many cases the school attendance plummeted for many days after the threat was made and the adverse emotional impact for students following those acts "is incalculable."
Lovett encouraged parents/guardians to speak with their children about the issue and the severity of the consequences of such actions.
"School and law enforcement officials are determined to put a halt to these willful acts of terrorism being made toward our schools," he wrote. "Together we can prevent this unnecessary, dangerous and disruptive crime from victimizing our schools and make each learning environment safer for our students to develop and grow each day."