Since the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, schools and law-enforcement officials have struggled to form policies addressing threats of school violence, and hundreds of students have been arrested nationwide for threats of one kind or another, says the Seattle Times. Even when the headlines sound similar, what happens next isn’t always so clear. Sometimes schools have underreported threats or incidents of violence.
Charging decisions are based, prosecutors said, on the credibility of the threat, whether the teen has taken “substantial steps” to carry out the threat, and whether potential victims feel intimidated or frightened. “You have to sort through things and figure out the kid’s intent,” said a prosecutor. Doug Honig of the American Civil Liberties Union said, “There have been kids who’ve accidentally brought in tiny toys that nobody thought was a weapon and the schools have said, ‘You’re out of here.,’ Sometimes the spread of so-called zero-tolerance policies turn into zero common sense.”