Bill would toughen penalties for bogus school threats

Bill would toughen penalties for bogus school threats
Some school districts have announced plans for National School Walkout Day (Source: Pixabay)

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC/WIS) - To put teeth into state law when it comes to threat-making against schools, one senator's bill would give perpetrators jail time and fines.

One bill being discussed in the Senate would make the threat to school property, a misdemeanor. That could mean jail-time or fines for thousands of dollars or both.

In her 30 years teaching, Amy Goodwin has been taught a few lessons, too, like how to command a student's attention. And that ability is sometimes lost when safety threats arise.

"If they don't feel safe, it disrupts everything because their focus is not going to be on learning. It's going to be on, 'What do I need to do? I need to get out to where I feel safe,'" Goodwin says.

Goodwin, a high school AP Literature and Journalism teacher in Camden, says this could be a good idea to deter threats. She calls it a starting point that would ultimately be a wake-up call to parents.

Just last week, a threat from another student was aimed at Camden High over social media.

"You try as hard as you can to keep on with the regular process because you don't want to give too much attention to a situation," Goodwin says.

That's why Goodwin supports the bill for stricter consequences on threat-makers.

"There certainly needs to be some kind of a consequence, and people need to be aware that people are being punished because it is a problem in the school environment," she says.

Carrying out the threat and harming a person, would be a felony under the bill. Some senators argue it could create a school to prison pipeline.

"The goal, like I said, is not to fill up our jails with kids that are threatening and maybe they don't even intend it, just like pulling a fire alarm or something of that nature," State Sen. Sandy Senn, of Charleston, says. "If they do something like that, they need to know that it's very serious and they need to be dealt with. But the real goal is to get the kids that really are thinking of some of these bad activities."

The bill was discussed in a committee meeting Tuesday but hasn't advanced beyond that.

It still needs to get to the Senate and pass, then over the House and be signed by the governor before it becomes law.

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