Dozens of Kentucky districts have had to deal with an ongoing issue of threats being made dating back to last fall, targeting schools here in Kentucky but also in many other states. Even if your district has not been directly affected by a threat so far, principals and other leadership team members have been asking, “How would we respond to such an act if it comes to us?”
For several weeks, KSBA staff members have researched and discussed these situations and what advice could be provided to our members on the options school boards have under Kentucky law for action, proactively or after an incident occurs.
In general, bomb threats are reportable to law enforcement per Administrative Procedure 05.43 AP.1. Policy 09.2211 also requires district employees to make certain reports required by law.
Local boards have the option to:
· seek criminal or juvenile charges, as applicable, against the alleged perpetrators;
· subject an offending student to disciplinary sanctions up to and including expulsion;
· pursue restitution in connection with juvenile or criminal proceedings; and/or
· offer a reward for information leading to an arrest or conviction.
(Key statutes are referenced below.)
This information is offered for board team discussions with your local board attorney, and/or consideration of actions ranging from giving public notice of the board’s/district’s positions on responding to such threats. Another option would be a board resolution encouraging parents to talk to their children about the potential life-affecting consequences of such a disruptive action, and acknowledging the intent of the board and the administration to pursue all available options in response to any threat that disrupts student learning in the district. It is possible that discussion at a board meeting, with the accompanying news media attention, could help curb some of these incidents.
Certainly, the course of action is completely a local decision, and this information is provided for board teams facing such a threat situation or wishing to take pre-emptive steps to communicate the district leadership’s intent should such a situation arise.
Key statute on student discipline
KRS 158.150 - A student may be subject to expulsion for threatening conduct. In addition, the language that allows students to be expelled without services defines triggering “threatening behavior” to include “any other behavior which may endanger the safety of others.”
• Must be tied to the student discipline code. Check your code and seek advice of counsel. Keep in mind students subject to expulsion are entitled to a board hearing.
• Higher standard of proof is required to expel without services – clear and convincing evidence the student posed a threat to the safety of other students or school staff and could not be placed into state-funded agency program.
• Unless there is language to the contrary in the district student discipline code or board policies, and subject to additional procedures and exceptions for special education students, a student making a bomb threat may be subjected to expulsion without services.
Key criminal statutes (partial descriptions)
KRS 508.075 – Terroristic threatening in the first degree. Applies to a person who intentionally makes false statements that he/she or another person has placed a weapon of mass destruction on school property, property that is the site of a school function, or a school vehicle. This is a Class C felony that can result in a prison term of five to 10 years.
KRS 508.078 – Terroristic threatening in the second degree. Applies to a person who threatens to commit any act likely to result in death or serious physical injury to students, teachers, staff or volunteers of a public or private school. This is a Class D felony punishable by one to five years in prison.
KRS 508.080 – Terroristic threatening in the third degree. Applies to a person who threatens to commit any crime likely to result in death or serious physical injury to another person or likely to result in substantial property damage to another person OR who intentionally makes false statements for purposes of causing the evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation. This a class A misdemeanor punishable by 90 days to 12 months in jail.
As part of the disposition of a juvenile case, the court may order the child or his parent(s), guardian, or person exercising custodial control to make restitution to any injured person to the extent, in the sum and upon the conditions as the court determines. KRS 635.060. A parent, guardian or custodian is entitled to an opportunity for a hearing before payment is ordered and the court is to base same on a finding that the failure to exercise reasonable control or supervision was a substantial factor in the child’s delinquency. Note: In a juvenile case, the court’s statutory authority to order restitution is triggered after an adjudication that the juvenile committed an offense. For general background on a court’s discretion to order restitution in a juvenile case, see R.S. v. Com., 423 S.W.3d 178 (Ky. 2014). This case also has a discussion regarding the availability of restitution from adult offenders.
OAG 92-63 – Permissible for school district to offer a reward to solve a crime and to deter others regarding vandalism of school property. The same rationale would appear to apply to a bomb threat.
For more information, school boards are encouraged to consult with their local board attorney and/or their KSBA policy consultant at 800-372-2962.