It’s no joke! Every time a threat is made against a school, an employee or a student – whether that threat is verbal, via phone, posted on social media or written on a piece of paper or even in a bathroom stall, it creates fear in schools, disrupting the educational environment. But most importantly, it deviates protective resources from our schools putting them in danger should there be a real threat.

At the same time, these fake threats create fear in a community. They rob parents, teachers and students of the peace of mind they deserve while in school. Making joke threats is not only unfair and irresponsible, it will bring about long-term consequences to the individuals who make them.

During the first eight weeks of this school year, we have already received 24 threats and arrested six students. Beyond the disruption to the educational environment and the time lost from instruction, is the fear and stress being imposed on our school communities.

Since the Parkland shooting, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of threats made against schools. Last school year, we investigated 115 threats made against schools resulting in 20 students arrests. To be clear, we take every single threat seriously. When a threat is made, we cannot differentiate whether it’s a real threat, a prank, a joke or a hoax.

The Miami-Dade Schools Police Department investigates all threats with the same level of dedication and rigorous investigation. Their mission still revolves around prevention, intervention and arrest as a last resort.

This is why Miami-Dade County Public Schools is building on the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice “It’s No Joke!” campaign to raise awareness regarding threats against schools as well as the short and long-term consequences associated with making them.

It really is no joke that making a threat against a school is a felony, which may bring about federal and state charges, and may lead to an arrest and imprisonment. Make no mistake, the Miami-Dade school district will recommend prosecution to the full extent of the law. Our Schools Police is collaborating with local law enforcement partners and the State Attorney’s office to investigate and prosecute all individuals associated with threats against our schools. 

Hoax or not, there will be serious consequences. If arrested, the student will be expelled and as these are second degree felonies, more than likely they will be detained for three weeks in a local detention center.

Arrest records are lifelong. Try getting a job, going to college, applying for student loans, getting a driver’s license or even renting an apartment. These are just a few of the consequences that can result from being arrested. Not to mention a federal charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The vast majority of young people in our community know to do the right thing. But there are a few individuals, who out of irresponsibility, immaturity or just meanness are doing the wrong thing, and they need to be dealt with.

We always emphasize that it is everyone’s responsibility to detect and alert others regarding school threats. We have several vehicles that can be used. Any threat or knowledge of one can be declared to a school official, police officer, principal or teacher. Tips can be called in anonymously to 305-995-COPS (2677). They can use “FortifyFL,” a free application that can be downloaded to any smart device to relay any knowledge of a threat. Throughout this process, anonymity can be guaranteed. 

Whether at home or at school, our students need to learn how to be safe and how to act responsibly when using the Internet or social networks.  Parents, please be more aggressive in communicating to your children about their rights, but also their responsibilities. Inspect their social media activity.

Our aim with the “It’s No Joke!” campaign is to ensure that our students can navigate the digital world in a responsible, safe and productive manner as well as provide for safe, smoothly operating schools.

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