The Honolulu Police Department and the state Department of Education are addressing the recent rash of threats of violence involving schools.
More than a dozen threats have been made against Oahu schools so far this year, and police are stepping up efforts to try and put a stop to it.
The threats come in the aftermath of a deadly school shooting in Florida that has the nation on high alert.
“We don’t want to turn our school systems to anything other than an education system. Our students certainly do not want to see that, and we want to make sure that we’re focused on learning on those campuses,” said schools superintendent Christina Kishimoto.
Officials want to emphasize that there are serious consequences to those who make these threats, and that they’re working with the FBI to catch them.
They say all threats have to be taken seriously, so they’re speaking out to let families know what’s at stake.
“These cases are felonies,” said HPD deputy police chief John McCarthy. “They’re terroristic threatening in the first degree, punishable by up to a five-year sentence, and if juveniles think it doesn’t affect them, it does affect them.”
McCarthy says kids run the risk of having a criminal record, and that puts them on a bad path toward their future.
“What I want my young people to understand is that there are consequences that can follow them,” said Kishimoto. “It can impact their ability to go to college and get a job, especially if they’re carrying a record.”
In addition to two recent arrests, HPD says it has identified two others who have made threats.
Most were done through social media, and HPD admits the suspects are harder to find because they’re done from fake accounts.
Police are working with the FBI and have a warning for others: you may also be committing a crime and not even know it.
“If you’re re-posting the threats, it’s as good as making the threat itself, because you’re contributing, carrying on that initial conspiracy, sort of speak,” said McCarthy.
HPD and the DOE are appealing to parents to talk to their children about these consequences.
“There needs to be some responsibility. The juveniles, the students, their parents, they all need to take ownership of this and put an end to it,” said McCarthy.
Kishimoto says schools see a decrease in attendance when a threat is made, though it returns to normal.
The day after a threat was reported at Kapolei Middle School, on Feb. 16, the DOE says 644 students were marked absent, while only 425 were present.
“I’m never going to tell a parent that they can’t exercise their sense and understanding of safety from their perspective,” said Kishimoto. “At the same time, I have absolutely been impressed with the work, the principals and teachers working together to reassure families that their children are coming into a safe learning environment.”
HPD says all threats are investigated and the public is encouraged to report them to police.