BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — In light of recent threats against schools nationwide, local law enforcement is telling students that threats, no matter the intent, have serious consequences.
At schools, students who make threats already face suspension if not expulsion for their actions, however, it could also lead them behind bars.
Joking or not, any student or person who writes, vocalizes or publishes any kind of threat toward a school can face various charges from Class C misdemeanors to Class 3 felonies under Illinois law.
Instead of a trip to the principal’s office, their “funny jokes” could lead them on a trip to jail.
Public Information Officer John Fermon with the Bloomington Police Department said any school threats their department handles is no laughing matter.
“They’re taken very seriously, most of our school resource officers will handle it,” Fermon said.
Whether the intent was harmless or not in a student’s eyes, Fermon said a student can and will get arrested if its warranted.
“We deal with it one a case-by-case basis, it’s the same as pulling a fire alarm when there’s not a fire, but it’s a little bit more serious as well,” Fermon said.
Whether it’s TikTok, Facebook, or Snapchat, one threat can be shared with multiple users worldwide. Professor of criminal justice and school safety researcher Dr. Charles Bell said parents need to have these talks about social media with their children.
“Students are being challenged by social media and they think it’s a game; it’s a way they can gain some sort of popularity and status,” Bell said.
Bell said however it’s not a game and in some cases, children can be charged as an adult depending on the charge. He said a “just kidding” excuse will not hold up in a courtroom.
“Even if you put some sort of disclaimer on it and even if you’re laughing when you’re making a threatening video, eventually somebody is going to be knocking on your door because it’s a serious issue,” Bell said.
He said students at any age should realize whatever they post on social can and will come back to haunt them.
“They need to know that the government is watching and your actions; (it) doesn’t matter if you’re 15, 14, 11; you will be held accountable in someway shape or form,” Bell said.
He said much like the school shooting in Michigan at Oxford High School on Nov 30, if parents like James and Jennifer Crumbley know that their kid is posting something illegal or threatening and do nothing about it, they too can get charged.
McLean County State’s Attorney Don Knapp stressed posts and pictures don’t disappear from social media completely. He said digital forensic investigators can “almost always” reconstruct or find illegal materials that students think will never be seen again.