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Trib editorial: Transparency is a must in disposition of school threats

| Wednesday, March 7, 2018, 3:51 p.m.
Police escort students arriving at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on their first day back at the school since a former student opened fire there with an assault rifle, killing 17 people.
Police escort students arriving at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on their first day back at the school since a former student opened fire there with an assault rifle, killing 17 people.

Nary a day goes by when we don't hear of a lockdown or classes canceled — at a single school or districtwide — because of the ongoing surge in school threats after the South Florida high school shooting. By our count there have been 41 threats at area schools (as of Wednesday) since the Feb. 14 tragedy that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Indeed, there's no such thing as an idle school threat. And for any addled mind that would make one, there are serious, potentially lifelong consequences, which schools must emphasize to students and parents. That requires not just reporting threats in real time, but also detailing the punishment for anyone who makes a threat.

Schools that are having their operations disrupted cannot hide behind so-called “privacy concerns,” which typically are moot when most culprits — juveniles — aren't identified.

Police and public safety officials say the ongoing uptick in threats is to be expected after a mass shooting. But some of those same experts are taken aback by the sheer frequency of threats here and across the commonwealth. As of March 1, at least 13 individuals had been charged in connection with making threats against Western Pennsylvania schools since Feb. 14. The accused can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony terrorist threat, which applies if a threat disrupts school activities. The latter charge is akin to a bad tattoo that a person lives with for a lifetime.

Schools and parents, working together, can help stem school threats. But there must be transparency in documenting the consequences for those who make threats.

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