D.A. DUMANIS BACKS BILL TO CRACK DOWN ON SCHOOL THREATS

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East County News Service

April 17, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has announced her support for a measure to make it a specific crime to threaten a shooting on any school campus, public or private. It would also make a person convicted of such threats responsible for the reasonable costs of emergency responses by public agencies.

The measure, Senate Bill 456, was introduced by State Senator Marty Block, a San Diego Democrat, in the wake of numerous school threats, lockdowns and evacuations. In the last year, individuals made more than 130 threats to schools in the San Diego Unified School District alone, with additional threats to schools in East County and other areas in our region. These threats impact students, parents, the surrounding community and law enforcement.

Currently such crimes are commonly charged as making criminal threats under Penal Code 422. This bill adds a new section to that code that is specific to schools, removing a requirement that there must be sustained fear connected to the threat. Under the new law, if a threat caused an emergency response by a public agency.

In a press statement issued by Dumanis, the D.A. states, “Threats of school violence have increased to an alarming rate and individuals need to know they’ll be held responsible if they make such threats. In light of the threats, and number of school shootings that actually take place across the nation, students and their families have a right to feel safe,” she adds.

SB 456 would make these types of threats, in verbal or written form, or through the Internet, a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to a year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both, as well as repayment of emergency costs that can be far more than the crime.

Costs range from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the emergency response.

In addition to diverting law enforcement staff and resources to attend to the threats, additional resources, time and costs are often required to ensure a community is safe by shutting down targeted schools and sometimes surrounding neighborhoods to avoid a catastrophe in the event the threat turns out to be real.

Senator Block notes, “Gun threats to schools force educators and law enforcement to put learning and public safety aside.”

He adds that false threats result in lost learning time for students, create anxiety for communities and consume scarce education and law enforcement resources for an emergency response, hampering educators and law enforcement from what they should be doing – teaching and protecting the public.

Block concludes, “It’s time to hold these individuals accountable.”