Police were looking for any way possible to hold an Idaho student accountable when he was intercepted en route to a school, guns in hand, with intent to kill. He had posted on Facebook about his plans to attack the school. Because of current laws, however, police were unable to charge the student with even a misdemeanor.
This is just one example given by Idaho Fraternal Order of Police lobbyist Paul Jagosh of how current laws do not account for current technology.
The Idaho Fraternal Order of Police presented House Bill 588, the primary object of which is to give police the resources and jurisdiction they need to protect students. The bill would make three changes to current law to help protect schools from such attacks.
The first change suggested by this bill is to put any threat to students, schools or teachers from any point of origin under the jurisdiction of police, according to the bill’s statement of purpose.
If, like the student in Jagosh’s example, a threat were made over Facebook, police would have jurisdiction to investigate. Currently, a threat made on social media is not enough cause for police to investigate.
“We have to have a reason or a tool to go do investigation and hold kids accountable who are making these threats,” Jagosh said.
The second change made by the bill is to make threats against schools a misdemeanor. Currently, threatening to attack a school is not punishable as a misdemeanor, according to bill 588.
“Right now, it’s a misdemeanor to make a threat while you’re on school grounds,” Jagosh said. The bill makes any threat against a school from any point of origin a misdemeanor.
The third change is one that Jagosh believes to be especially important. If a person is found with a dangerous weapon after having first made a threat against a school, that person will be charged with a felony rather than a misdemeanor, according to the text of the bill.
Jagosh said the current law does not cover threats made off campus. Therefore, someone can threaten a school, arm themselves and will not be outside of the law until they are on campus.
Some students believe threatening a school should be a crime. Maja Johnson, a freshman studying art education, originally thought it was.
“Not being able to arrest someone for a threat is threatening towards that school,” Johnson said.
BYU-Idaho is no stranger to threats made towards campus. In November of 2014 a young male posted on Yik Yak that he was planning “to shoot BYU-I on Monday.” Police found the user and no harm was done towards the students on campus.
In July of 2015 an anonymous user on Yik Yak posted two threats. The first threat said “BYU-I is in trouble tomorrow. Don’t go to school.” The second threat said “This is not a joke. Your classmates or you will be hurt.” Police were able to find the anonymous user and no harm came to the school.
The Idaho Fraternal Order of Police said that the bill has not faced any opposition.