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Law enforcement warn of consequences hoax threats carry

Law enforcement warn of consequences hoax threats carry
Law enforcement warn of consequences hoax threats carry 03:43
Terell Bailey/CBS Detroit

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) It seems almost every day in recent weeks, we hear about threats disrupting classes and shutting down schools. Law enforcement in Oakland County investigates one to five threats a day. Each one carries serious consequences.

Attorney Corey Silverstein stood beside kids who've bluffed on social media or scrawled on walls they're looking do alleged violence at school.

"Nowadays, we're seeing these threats coming in from 11-year-olds and such. These are not developed minds; these are not mature minds that know what's going on that they fully grasp what they're doing when they say it," Silverstein said. 

Most of the time, Silverstein says the young suspects don't have the ability or plan to inflict harm.

"You see these kids that are coming in, and they're saying, 'To be quite honest, I thought I was being funny,'" Silverstein said. "They thought they were being sarcastic."

The Educator's School Safety Network tracks school threats nationwide. They've seen a 600% increase this fall compared to the last pre-pandemic school year. 

"Most of them are very deliberate attempts to try to disrupt and cause fear and anxiety, and they're doing just that," Amy Klinger, co-founder of the Educator's School Safety Network, told CBS Detroit.

According to Michigan's anonymous reporting hotline, OK2SAY, they've received 243 tips regarding planned school attacks so far this year. Go back a year, and they had about 100 such threats. Following the tragedy at Oxford High School, there were over 1,600 in a single month. 

"Making the threat by itself is a criminal act," Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said.

At the Oakland County Sheriff's Office, resources are reallocated every time someone alleges to carry out violence.

CBS Detroit: "There was a tidal wave of threats coming in shortly after the Oxford shooting. What do you think is motivating it this time–the influx of threats?

Bouchard: I think in part it's become so publicized that other people, other schools are copycatting, and that becomes a common thing where copycats begin to spring up both with threats that weren't intended to be carried out. But also, sometimes, in the minds of some people somewhere, we know it's fermenting: 'I want to do something.'

The hoax threats have landed some suspects at Children's Village, the juvenile detention center in Pontiac, including a 16-year-old girl whose threat earlier this month led to the closure of Ferndale High and Middle schools.

"No matter what the outcome is, anytime someone goes to look up that particular individual, it will fall on the rest of their lives," Silverstein said. 

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy sent a letter earlier this year reminding parents their children can face up to 20 years in prison for a prank threat. High school seniors who are already 18 can be charged as an adult. 

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald believes these threats are preventable. 

"It's not one thing. Charging as many people as we can alone is not going to fix this. It's part of it. But another part of it is stepping back and looking. How do we prevent gun violence?" McDonald told CBS Detroit.

McDonald recently participated in a video explaining how parents in the Bloomfield Hills School district can prevent threats in several ways, including: 

  • Know a child's code to access their electronic devices
  • Monitor social media accounts and activity for inappropriate photos and searches. 
  • Consider downloading an app to help create parental controls on their devices.

In a statement to CBS Detroit, Bloomfield Hills Schools said:

Bloomfield Hills Schools is being proactive in our partnership with our various police partners, the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office and the Oakland County Sheriff's Office, and as part of our collaborative efforts, we sent out the video yesterday, encouraging families to closely monitor social media and electronic device use, have conversations with their children at home, reiterated the importance of reporting through OK2Say, and about proper weapon storage. 

As we near the one-year remembrance of the Oxford High School tragedy on November 30, we are faced with the reality that after a major school tragedy, copycat threats occur at an exponential rate and districts throughout our county have seen just that. Our meetings and communication are part of an ongoing proactive strategy to reduce threats and incidents within our community. 

We are also proactively working together with our partners in creating and implementing student-focused activities and interactions to understand and reduce threats within our spaces. We will be leaning into our social-emotional learning curriculum and procedures to support students in understanding how words and actions impact others both in and around our community. Follow up meetings are scheduled with a commitment to educating our students, staff, and families in an effort to decrease incidents in our schools. 

"It used to be a parent could lock the door and the end of the night know their kids were upstairs safe, and everything was calm," Bouchard said. "There's no such thing as a complete safe space when you have a smartphone that goes everywhere."

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