We have been discussing the use of criminal charges against children for pranks and threats in recent years, including a story this week involving twelve year old girls in Florida. In Fairfax, Virginia (where I live and my kids attend public school) a 12-year-old is being charged with making threats against her school using emoji. The girl sent an Instagram post in December that said, in part: “Killing [gun emoji] meet me in the library Tuesday [gun emoji] [knife emoji] [bomb emoji].” Once again, the case raises the question of whether such matters need to be criminalized rather than address through stern but internal punishment.
On Monday, McLean High School (where two of my boys attend) was shut down by a bomb threat.
In this case, a school resource officer from Sidney Lanier Middle School subpoenaed the IP address of the person who posted the message on Instagram and traced it to the girl. There was no evidence that it was anything other than a juvenile posting. However, the girl was charged with computer harassment and threatening the school.
The use of emoji make the case even more controversial as to its meaning and its impact on recipients. Whether such emoji constitute true threats is challengeable.
More importantly, the police concluded easily that this was a real threat. It is the type of thing that juvenile will do. Suspension or expulsion should be more than enough to deter future students. Of course, teens and pre-teens will continue to do stupid things. However, is it really necessary to put these kids through the criminal justice system as opposed to school discipline and action?
Source: Washington Post