Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) has received a total of 47 threats so far this school year, which have resulted in nine arrests; the latest arrest occurring today. These hoax threats disrupt the schools’ educational environment and interfere with police officers’ ability to protect schools from real dangers; drain law enforcement resources; cost taxpayers’ money; and increase stress levels, anxiety and absenteeism.
“In recent weeks, the school district has been barraged by social media threats most of which have been non-credible,” said Schools Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho. “Hoax and prank threats of any kind targeting schools makes balancing school safety and classroom instruction difficult. As a community, we have an obligation to encourage everyone, especially children, to use social media responsibly. The consequences of doing otherwise can be detrimental to a child’s future.”
Miami-Dade Schools Police Department (MDSPD) takes every threat seriously and is working closely with other law enforcement agencies to investigate each one in order to determine the validity of the threat and identify the perpetrator.
On average it takes 24 hours, spread over a three-day work period, to investigate these threat cases from start to finish. Simpler cases can be resolved over an 8-hour period with one detective, while others can take more than 40 hours and require several detectives and the involvement of external police and criminal justice agencies. Some cases require close collaboration with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and with M-DPD’s Homeland Security Bureau. Often times detectives and command staff personnel are required to work after hours, some on overtime.
The District is reminding the public that anyone making such a threat will likely be identified; a written threat to kill or harm is a felony that will not be tolerated; and perpetrators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. As of this morning, eight arrests have already been made.
“School safety is our number one priority,” said Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief Edwin Lopez. “Our police force will investigate every threat, including threats that turn out to be pranks. Parents, students and families must understand that a hoax threat against a school or public place is considered a federal crime and can lead to arrest and a felony record. Hoax threats are not worth your future, nor your freedom.”
Arrests obviously have a lasting impact on students’ futures. A federal charge could be included, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Even if federal charges are not warranted, state charges may be considered.
Earlier this year, the School Board approved an item endorsing the FBI’s Education Awareness Campaign, #ThinkBeforeYouPost, on the consequences of posting hoax threats to schools and other public places.
Even with all the precautions in place, we remind the community that vigilance continues to be the most effective way to prevent dangerous situations. Through the See Something, Say Something initiative, anyone who witnesses suspicious activity is encouraged to call 305-995-COPS or contact the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) via tips.fbi.gov or via phone (1-800-CALL-FBI).