New Utah Bill Aims To Make School Threats A Crime

Feb 19, 2020, 9:01 PM | Updated: Jun 22, 2022, 2:54 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – A new bill introduced by Utah lawmakers would make it a crime for adults and minors to make threats against schools.

We see it every school year. Students evacuating their schools as first responders surround the building because of a threat.

“We talk about it all the time,” said Laura Cavanaugh, who has a daughter who is a high school junior. “Nowadays, it’s unfortunate. There’s not a day doesn’t go by that a fear doesn’t cross my mind about something happening.”

Real or not, Jeff Haney with the Canyons School District said a threat can ruin a full day of classes, incite fear, and result in a heavy financial burden.

“They’re incredibly disruptive,” he said. “Education statistics will tell you that schools have never been safer, and yet national polls will say that parents say they’re worried about their children’s safety when they go to school every day. So, where’s the disconnect?”

Rep. Andrew Stoddard said the problem is Utah’s law, or lack of it. There currently is no law that directly addresses threats against schools. Stoddard’s House Bill 171 would change that.

“We’re hoping that this bill is a deterrent,” Stoddard said. “(We’re) not looking to punish kids, necessarily, but to get them the help that they need so we can figure out why they’re making those threats.”

If passed, the person responsible for making the threat  real or a hoax – could face a class A, B or C misdemeanor, depending on the level of response from the school and law enforcement.

It would give judges the option to order the defendant to pay restitution, and it would also help school districts connect offenders with counseling.

“We see (school threats) as cries for help,” Haney said. “(We’ve) got to get at the root of the issue, so it doesn’t happen again.”

Parents who spoke to KSL said they hoped the bill will lead to fewer days like the ones they see all too often at schools across the country.

“There should be punishment for causing any type of fear in somebody like that,” Cavanaugh said.

Rep. Stoddard believed he had the votes necessary in committee as of Wednesday to bring the bill to the House floor.

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New Utah Bill Aims To Make School Threats A Crime