By Wayne Gates –
Make a threat and go to jail.
That seems to be the consensus of the Brown County law enforcement following three separate incidents of alleged social media threats against area schools.
Eastern High School, Western Brown High School and Western Brown Middle School were all subjected to alleged threats made on social media by juveniles over the past week or so.
Regarding the situation at EHS, the Brown County Sheriff’s Office released the following statement.
“On February 21, 2018 there were posts made on social media advising that there was an active shooter at Eastern High School. These reports were false and spawned multiple other reports including that there would be an active shooter at the Eastern High School on February 22, 2018. All of these reports have been investigated and determined to be false.”
The BCSO has also investigated what it called “other unfounded tips” in the county.
Mt. Orab Police Chief Bryan Mount discussed the two incidents in Mt. Orab.
“We identified who the kid was (on Feb. 28), found that he was a 16 year old male, that did not go to Western Brown school at all. He went to a virtual learning school and had gotten on social media and made some type of threat to another young man. It had nothing to do with Western Brown.”
Mount said that the teenager is now in serious legal jeopardy.
“The young man is looking at making terroristic threats, inducing panic, aggravated menacing as well as being charged as an unruly juvenile,” Mount said.
“He’s looking at detention. It will ruin a young persons life to be convicted of those crimes over a simple social media post.”
Five days earlier, Mt. Orab police investigated an alleged threat at the middle school.
“We had a middle school student copy and repost a threatening letter from Florida on social media that said ‘2/23 will be a bad day to come to school. Then social media took off with it,” Mount said.
Brown County Prosecuting Attorney Zac Corbin said that each case is different, but the maximum penalty for a general threat against a school population is making a terroristic threat, which is a third degree felony.
“If we determine that there has been a threat made to any of our local schools, we are going to investigate it thoroughly, find the person responsible and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law,” Corbin said.
“Our position is going to be that those who are making these threats need to be arrested immediately and taken to juvenile detention.”
Corbin said that a mental health assessment would likely follow, and then “If they are convicted of the offense, the option is on the table for them to be sentenced to the Ohio Department of Youth Services until they turn 21.”
Corbin aso said that the situation was a very serious one.
“They need to learn that this is not the time to be making these sorts of threats, whether they want to claim after the fact that they were just joking or not. Times have changed. We are seeing more and more of this type of thing and the response of law enforcement is changing as a result.”
Mount echoed the feelings of Corbin.
“We are going to take a zero tolerance position on it. If a child posts it and we can identify them, we are going to charge them,” Mount said.
“Our position is that it needs to stop and kids need to understand that there is a consequence. We want the kids to understand that if they are doing it, we are going to try to get maximum penalties.”
Brown County Sheriff Gordon Ellis said that the recent shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fl is still fresh in the minds of many.
“I think there is a heightened level of tension and anxiety about the safety of children in schools right now. And we understand that,” he said.
“When we get a report of a threat in our jurisdiction, we move very rapidly to resolve that issue.”
Mount and Ellis both said that a threat to school safety on social media always goes to the top of the priority list.
“When we get a threat of that nature, we are going to put every resource we need to run that threat down and run it down quickly. That means I have to divert whatever routine activity that is going on and focus it on that particular threat,” Ellis said.
Mount said that he has used a lot of his resources as well.
“I’ve had two guys tied up for a number of hours on potential social media threats that we identified as being unfounded. Any threat we get, we have to look into and treat as real until proven otherwise.” Mount said.
“Most of the time it’s just a child who has made the mistake of saying something rash. They don’t see the severity in it, but we take it very seriously.”
That includes training for school shootings.
“We have already had three trainings in Mt. Orab on dealing with a school shooter. On three separate saturday mornings, we had guys in one of the schools each week at 6 a.m. working on things like stairwells and clearing doorways.”
Ellis said that the BCSO has also been working with local schools.
“Some of the schools have requested our presence to help critique lockdown drills, some of them have asked us to have a stronger presence at the schools and we have responded to that also,” he said.
Ellis said that there have been enough school shootings in recent years to gain an understanding of how they will typically react.
“Historically, they will continue to shoot until confronted by someone with a firearm, in which case they will either surrender or take their own lives. That being the case, we in the sheriff’s office will do everything we can to get there rapidly.”
Ellis added that given the rural nature of the county and distance involved, there will be a period of time before law enforcement arrives.
Because of that fact, Ellis said, “I would recommend to every school district that they have some type of armed security that can deal with a school shooter from when the shooting starts until law enforcement arrives. That can take different forms. It could be teachers that are armed and trained, it could be hired retired military and law enforcement or assigning a school resource officer.”
Ellis said the ultimate decision is up to local school board and local citizens.