AUSTIN (KXAN) — A number of Central Texas schools have had to deal with threats being made toward their campuses in recent weeks.
On Thursday, Akins Early College High School was the latest to deal with a threat. The school was put on a hold after a social media threat was made.
“The fear that people have is a valid fear, and we take those threats seriously,” said Hutto Police Chief Jefferey Yarbrough.
Yarbrough, who has no affiliation to the Akins incident, said in the many years he has been in law enforcement he has seen a number of threats toward schools, and they are all taken very seriously.
“If a person makes a threat to another individual, we can file on them for a terroristic threat,” said Yarbrough. “If they make a threat that puts the public or a substantial portion of the public in fear, we can take action against that which is a third-degree felony.”
Yarbrough said even young children can face punishment if they make a threat.
“If you are 10 years or older in the state of Texas, and you make a threat or commit a criminal offense, you can be arrested by law enforcement and handled by juvenile services,” said Yarbrough.
Just last week, the Lockhart Police Department arrested a 12-year-old girl in connection to a threat made at Lockhart Junior High School. She now faces terroristic threat charges.
Lt. Conor Mitchell with Hutto PD said officers are trained to figure out if a threat is credible or not. Once a threat has been identified, they go through a process to figure out who’s responsible. He said even people who think a social media post can’t be tracked are wrong.
“We do have intelligence resources at our disposal to where, even if someone thinks they are cloaking the device that they are using, we can still probably be there at their doorstep,” said Mitchell.
Rickey Jones with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office said even if someone is making a threat as a joke, there are still consequences.
“For the kids who might be doing this, they need to know that this will be taken serious,” said Jones. “They [law enforcement] take the ‘better safe than sorry’ approach. They treat every threat like it is a legitimate threat. They investigate it, and they go out and do their do diligence and talk to the kids and go through the school and use whatever precaution they need to in case the threat is legitimate.”
According to data the Texas Education Agency collected from school districts and gave to KXAN, there were nearly 67,500 threats made during the last school year. Out of those, about 17% posed a threat and individuals were referred to officials for intervention. Only about 3% actually posed an imminent threat. The vast majority of reports — 69% — posed no real threat to school district.