Texas lawmakers today will look into a disturbing spike in the number of teenagers who have been reported to the police for the crime of making terroristic threats in Texas in the five months since the school shooting in Parkland Florida in February, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
A report by the public interest group Texas Appleseed reveals that the number of juveniles who have been referred to the police in the past two months is up 156% form the same period a year ago.
"The increase in referrals for these offenses is really shocking," Deborah Fowler, the author of the report, told 1200 WOAI's Michael Board.
The report confirms the following:
A dramatic increase in referrals to Texas juvenile probation departments in the wake of the Parkland tragedy, with a 156% increase in referrals for terroristic threat, and a 600% increase in referrals for exhibition of firearms.
66% of the exhibition of firearms referrals were for threatening to exhibit a weapon, not actual possession. The spike was born most by younger students, with a 69% increase in referrals for terroristic threat and a 762% increase in referrals for exhibition of firearms for 10-13 year-olds.
Black students are overrepresented in referrals, and were more than twice as likely as all other students to be referred to juvenile probation for terroristic threat or exhibition of firearms.
Fowler says it appears that school officials are 'going overboard' when it comes to discipline
."We know the harms of funneling kids into the justice system, and pushing them into the system at such high rates when there are other remedies available is simply inappropriate," Fowler said.
School officials report an increase in 'prank' threats of school violence following every school shooting, simply because of the attention the event receives, and that is believed to have contributed to the spike in criminal referrals as well.
"We really want to base our responses on research and evidence based practices, and not on what feels good in the moment," she said.
The report indicates parents and other groups have made some of the referrals to law enforcement, but the vast majority came from public school officials.
The report says the San Antonio Northside ISD is fifth in the state in the number of school based referrals.