The number of people prosecuted for disrupting schools in Colorado is up more than 40 percent since 2004, reports the Denver Post. Law enforcement officials attribute the increase to increasing vigilance about safety. Charges of interfering with staff, faculty or students of educational institutions have increased from 198 in 2004 to 284 last year. This year, Colorado is on a pace for more than 350 cases. “I think we are in a heightened state of awareness post-Columbine, and the school districts are enforcing the behavioral rules,” said a court spokeswoman. This week, for example, two 14-year-old boys middle school students were arrested after authorities said they threatened to commit a large-scale school shooting.
“Ten years ago it might have been a chuckle or a joke or a prank, but now the kids know what kind of impact this kind of threat has,” said a prosecutor. “You don’t want to lose sight that it could turn into a real disaster.” In Jefferson County, where 77 people have been charged since 2004, an assessment team of law enforcement, mental-health experts and school officials tries to determine how to handle students who cause disturbances. “If they have a history of breaking and entering, or if they have websites that are threatening, this group is the one that needs to receive that information and decide the best course of action for that student,” said Jane Grady of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Many times, authorities say the threats will not be carried out but are a cry for help.