State Bill Would Make All School Violence Threats Felonies
Posted April 20, 2007 3:29 p.m. EDT
Updated April 20, 2007 8:44 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — A combination of rumors, the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech and the eighth anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting put high school campuses across the state on heightened alert Friday for potential school violence.
Now, poposed legislation in the General Assembly would widen the scope regarding what types of school threats are a felony and how they are communicated.
"It's not against the law to say, 'I'm going to come in and shoot a couple of students,'" said Wake County Rep. Nelson Dollar.
Right now, it is a felony to phone in a bomb threat.
"If it came by fax, e-mail, Internet, phone, text message, it would be covered," Dollar said.
The proposed bill would cover other types of threats or perceived threats, such as hit lists, that would be sent via e-mail, Internet or text message."
Under the bill, anyone convicted would be ordered to pay for damages or disruption to services.
Law enforcement agencies have to take all threats seriously, which means they sometimes have to divert officers from other calls.
"Police and fire have to respond to the scene," said Carrboro Police Capt. J.G. Booker. "We have to try and ensure public safety."
For example, authorities evacuated Durham County's main library for two hours Friday after a staff member received a bomb threat over the phone, county officials said.
The Durham County Sheriff's Office investigated the library with bomb-sniffing dogs. After clearing the facility, officials reopened the library at 3 p.m., two hours after the original threat.
And in several school systems across the state, officials increased security after threats of violence.
But Booker said he is still skeptical about others having to pay financially. The end result under the proposed legislation would mean that a hoax could cost someone thousands of dollars and possible jail time.
"I think we do have to keep in mind that maybe the folks involved in that kind of action don't really think in terms of end results or punishment for their actions," he said.
Last year, there were 176 bomb threats made to schools in North Carolina. That number is actually down from 229 in 2001.