Threatening comments or posts may haunt youthful offenders for years

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Over the 10 days since the massacre in at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, there's a renewed debate over gun control. And  there has been a dramatic rise in threats against schools, including here in Southwest Louisiana.

Even if such threats are meant as a joke, the consequences may be serious and follow those arrested for years to come.

So, what happens if you make a comment or post that sounds threatening to a school or students? First off, there may be cuffs, arrest, get booked into jail-- suspension or expulsion from school and a visit to court.

Sheriff Tony Mancuso suggests, don't do it.

"It's easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble.  Once you've done it and you've gotten in trouble, then you have to restore your reputation.  However that may be," said Mancuso.

Someone convicted of terrorizing as an adult can be punished up to 15 years in prison or up to a 15-thousand dollar fine or both explains Calcasieu District Attorney John DeRosier.

"Sometimes, when we are young we say things that we really don't mean. And we have no intentions of going and bombing a school or shooting people at a school, but when you start talking about it just to be a little bragging you stick your head into a noose that tightens up and you can't get out of it," he said.

And even if a person's official record is wiped clean, DeRosier says damage to one's reputation may live online for years.

"Ten years down the road, when they've finished college and they have a family and want to find a good job, and a prospective employer sees that they were investigated for domestic terrorism at some time in the past, they're going to have a hard time getting a job if you have five equally qualified people," said DeRosier.

The popularity of the recent Fresh Start Initiative shows how hard it is to clean up the past.

"It takes a lot of effort from a lot of people to undo what you can get yourself into in five minutes," said DeRosier.

So, the district attorney suggests young people think first and avoid problems that may follow them for the rest of their lives.

Calcasieu School Board spokesperson Holly Holland provided responses to the following questions about the handling of such behavior at school:

1.  What is our disciplinary policy on making threats?

Calcasieu Parish School Board believes that all students and staff have a right to a safe and healthy school environment.  Behavior that infringes on the safety of any student will not be tolerated.  Disciplinary action will be taken following a mandatory investigation of the infraction.

Threatening/Intimidation – Student delivers disrespectful and/or intimidating messages (verbal, gestural or written) that convey an explicit or implied threat and/or harm directed toward another student and/or adult, which convey the intent to carry out such or threat to harm as well as the knowledge and capacity to do so is a Level 3 Infraction and can be found on page 37 of the CPSB's Student Code of Conduct.

2.  Have we asked parents to discuss this with their children?

Yes, CPSB sent out an automated call-out to all parents/guardian emphasizing the seriousness of students making threats and spreading rumors.

3. Are there provisions for suspension or do such incidents bring automatic expulsion?

The CPSB policy does allow other corrective strategies to be administered by the school's administration regarding such infractions as threatening or intimidation, but in light of the current situation, CPSB and CPSO felt it was necessary to stress the importance of this issue and feel that students that continue to participate in such terrorizing behaviors need to be issued a severe consequence.

4. Are principals addressing students in assemblies?

Many CPSB schools held assemblies to educate the students on the seriousness of these types of behaviors and the consequences – school administrators are urging the students to not be part of the problem but be part of the solution.

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