School officials and police discuss ramifications of school threat hoaxes

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Kids might think the idea of making a hoax threat against a school is funny, or even a way to get out of taking a test, but the jokes can have very serious consequences.

Sergeant Jason Nielsen from Sandy City Police Department and Jeff Haney from Canyons School District, joined Emily Clark on Good Morning Utah to talk about the ramifications for everyone involved.

Included below is the reason for today’s conversation, the ongoing issues caused by a recent threat that turned out to be a hoax.

Sandy Police and Canyons District continue to work together on an investigation into the source of graffiti found at Jordan High that resulted in the evacuation of the school on Thursday, Jan. 17.  Surveillance footage is being reviewed and interviews conducted with students and members of the community who may have information related to the graffiti.

Jordan High is offering a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest and prosecution. 

Sandy Police and Canyons District emphasize that real and hoax threats against a school are prosecutable crimes. Law enforcement will hold those responsible to the fullest extent of the law. Possible charges that could be considered include felony counts of making a terroristic threat or making a false alarm with a weapon of mass destruction. Those crimes are punishable for up to several years in prison.  A significant fine also may be assessed.

A just-filed bill, HB476, would call for restitution – and it cost Canyons District $13,000 that it could have spent on classroom instruction.  

If approved, threats also could be punishable up to a third-degree felony. This bill is now being debated at the Utah legislature. It was drafted following the hoax threats at Jordan High School. 

Students also could face discipline at schools. Student discipline will be handled appropriately according to Canyons District policy.

These kinds of interruptions are incredibly challenging for school communities. When officials are alerted to messages that could be construed as threats, police and school authorities err on the side of caution and put into place the appropriate security and prevention measures. But they needlessly divert police resources, interrupt operations of the school, and create a sense of unease in the community.

Sandy Police and Canyons District recognize the concerns of parents regarding the safety of their children and pledge to work with parents to create school communities that are safe and welcoming

. To that end, they are asking the public for assistance in reporting accurate and first-hand information that would aid in the Jordan High graffiti investigation. 

Tips can be sent in anonymously through the SafeUT app:

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