AUSTIN (KXAN) — After the Parkland and Santa Fe school shootings, Texas has seen a huge increase in children arrested for making terroristic threats or threatening to use a gun.
A Texas justice organization, Texas Appleseed, released a report saying it’s because school officials are reverting back to a “zero tolerance” policy.
Take for example students booked into the juvenile justice system for threatening to use a gun.
It didn’t happen in 2016. There were only five in 2017. But in January through May of this year, there were 170 cases. Policy analysts from Texas Appleseed say it’s a reaction from the Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas school shootings.
For the past two years, between 400 and 500 students were booked for making a “terroristic threat”. This year, however, there were more than 1,200.
Two examples are local. In February, at Hendrickson High School in Pflugerville, school officials and police investigated a threat. They eventually found out it was a student referring to his bicep muscles as guns.
Also in February, two students were arrested at Marble Falls High School after making threats as part of an in-class discussion. Later, it was determined there was no danger, but the students were still arrested.
One of the authors from Texas Appleseed, Morgan Craven, says the reverting back to a “zero tolerance” policy is something lawmakers have been urging schools to move away from in recent history.
“They’re missing classroom time so they will struggle academically. We know that these approaches increase the likelihood that kids will drop out of school. There’s significant trauma involved when a kid is arrested,” said Craven.
Craven says schools should continue to take threats seriously but more should be using a behavioral threat assessment recommended by the Secret Service and the Department of Education.
That helps school leaders know if a threat is credible or not. She says when applied, that tool results in only one percent of threats ending in an arrest.
Wednesday, a select Texas Senate committee will look at ways to improve school safety. It was created after the Santa Fe shooting and Gov. Greg Abbott’s roundtable discussions and recommendations.