School threats can have serious legal consequences

CLEVELAND - Even if it's a hoax, making a threat against a school can have serious consequences for the person behind it, including prison time and fines.

The threats can cause public panic, and law enforcement must dedicate resources to investigating each one, regardless of intent.

Willoughby Hills Police arrested two students in connection with a threatened school shooting at Willoughby South High School Tuesday. A 17-year-old was charged with inducing panic.

“Ultimately, they could face some serious charges involved with this whether it was a joke or a meaningful threat,” Willoughby Police Lt. Jim Schultz said.

The FBI is also assisting in that and other local investigations involving threats against schools.

“We have to take everything seriously,” said Special Agent Vicki Anderson. “We will run down this threat, we will see who it's coming from, if it's a credible threat or if it's just a hoax. It might not meet federal charges, but there are local charges these threats can meet.”

In Ohio, someone who makes a threat against a school can face a felony charge of making a terroristic threat or inducing panic or a misdemeanor charge of aggravated menacing.

An adult conviction of inducing panic carries up to two to eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine for adults, and a juvenile felony adjudication can lead to detention or imprisonment until age 21.

“Your impulsive decisions could have long-term consequences,” said Gregory Mussman, Juvenile Division Chief in the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.

He said a felony adjudication can impact someone’s ability to go to college or to get a job.

“This is really serious,” Mussman said. “If you commit a threat or make a threat against a school or the safety of others, you can be charged with a felony.”