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Why have there been so many school threat arrests since Parkland?

The mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. that took the lives of 17 people led to a somewhat predictable increase in debates about gun control, school security and mental health.

It had at least one unpredictable result: a rise in the number of threats by students against each other and their schools, despite repeated warning from law enforcement officials that they would take them seriously and arrest the people responsible.

Western New York schools had more than 40 terrorist threats reported since the Parkland shooting, several near the end of the just-completed school year.

Nearly all of the threats were made via social media platforms and resulted in either the arrest or investigation of the accused students. The events include the arrest of a 17-year-old girl at Hutchinson Central Technical High School who made a threatening post on Facebook to blow up the school. That came close on the heels a 12-year-old Lackawanna girl who threatened her school via Snapchat.

Before that, three teens at North Tonawanda High School were charged with making terroristic threats after they were overheard discussing a scenario in which they would shoot students and faculty at their school.

Many of the threats came just after the FBI launched a national social media campaign to teach young people – and their parents – that hoaxes and terroristic threats can be prosecuted under federal law, similar to how extortion cases are handled.

Locally, the effort seemed to have the opposite of the desired effect.

"There is a number of reasons why kids make these threats," said FBI spokeswoman Maureen Dempsey. "Sometimes it's notoriety, some kids want attention or revenge on their school or a person, or they do it to get time off of school."

Dempsey said what schools are experiencing today is a social-media updated version of what they use to experience with bomb threats in earlier generations. The more of them reported, the more other students might copy the behavior.

"Today, kids feel more comfortable talking and making these threats with their friends because it's a different generation," she said.

Some students say the times and the means may have changed, but the practice should be seen for what it is.

"These kinds of things shouldn't be taken seriously because I think these people are doing it to play around" says Jaela Johnson, a 14-year-old freshman at Health Sciences Charter School.

Others feel as though these actions are a cry for attention.

"It happens so often that kids are getting used to it," says Santos Torres, a 17-year-old junior at Performing Arts, "they've been through the same drills over and over, I'm sure [the accused] know how to get around them now."

Others said they are grateful for the FBI's precautions and want them to be continued.

"All the threats should be taken seriously," Umieka Scott, a 16-year-old student at Health Sciences Charter School. "Because you don't know which one is real."


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