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FBI Reminds Students that Hoax Threats Against Schools are Serious Federal Crimes

FBI officials posted a back-to-school reminder on its website for students that making hoax threats against schools or other public places, such as school buses, “are serious federal crimes.”

A thoughtless remark on social media means a student can spend up to five years in federal prison and forever be labeled a felon, the FBI said on Friday.

Making hoax threats against schools, buses or other facilities—is a serious federal crime that is always responded to by the FBI and other agencies. After several tragic school shootings over the past year, “there is often an increase in hoax threats to schools,” the FBI added.

Related: Schools, Law Enforcement Respond to Student Gun Threats
Related: Students & Guns: What Can School Bus Drivers Do?

In recent months, the FBI and law enforcement agencies nationwide have investigated numerous phony violent threats against schools. These threats, made especially via text message or social media, “are taken very seriously. Hoax threats are not a joke.”

Issuing a threat—even over social media, by text message or email—is a federal crime (threatening interstate communications). Students who post or send threats can receive up to five years in federal prison, or face state or local charges.

In addition to major consequences for issuing threats, there is also a significant monetary cost for law enforcement agencies. Threats also cause “severe emotional distress to students, school personnel and parents.”

Below are typical examples of serious threats that resulted in prison sentences for a number of teenagers:

  • Two teens in Kentucky created a social media account in someone else’s name, which was used in a hoax threat against a public school. As a result, the 18-year-old male received 21 months in prison and the 19-year-old, 27 months.
  • A Texas teen used social media and a phone to send threats against schools in Minnesota. He also called in fake hostage situations (“swatting”). The student was arrested, pleaded guilty and sentenced to over three years in federal prison. He was 19 when sentenced.
  • An 18-year-old North Carolina teen received 22 months in federal prison and had to pay restitution after he sent bomb threats to multiple schools, colleges and FBI offices.

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