No joke: There is serious fallout for teens who make bomb threats against schools

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CLEVELAND - From children's day cares to entire school districts, bomb threats have sent law enforcement scrambling to schools from Mansfield to Eastlake in the past week. The culprits might consider the threats a harmless prank, but they come with very serious consequences.

A computer-generated robo-call threatening Hickory Ridge Elementary School in Brunswick had parents on edge Tuesday, and a Parma Heights 15-year-old is now facing charges for threatening 5 students in the Plymouth-Shiloh Local Schools.

Each threat can cost taxpayers thousands of dollars in law enforcement overtime, and charges can be stiff.

“The problem we have from a law enforcement perspective is you can’t tell which one of these is the one you can ignore,” said Cuyahoga County First Assistant Prosecutor Duane Deskins, who heads the juvenile division. “We have our tools. We can charge people with felonies as well as misdemeanors, and we're fully prepared to do that.”

In Ohio, Deskins said charges can range from misdemeanor inciting panic to felony-making terroristic threats. Penalties range from probation to juvenile imprisonment through the age of 21. The consequences can be life-long.

“There's not a school or a college in America that would take a kid who's made terroristic threats against his classmates,” Deskins said.

He said chances of getting away with making a threat undetected are slim. Police can track threats made by phone and online, and teens often tell each other their plans. Deskins said culprits often make the threats as a mechanism of seeking attention, rather than to cancel classes.

“Whether it be around the world or just a few blocks down from the school, you will be found out and there will be harsh consequences,” Deskins said.

The F.B.I. is assisting several local agencies with investigation of the threats, but juvenile charges of this nature are most often prosecuted at the county level.

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