Mooney seeks tougher penalties for students who make threats

May 06, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

A local lawmaker wants to crack down on students who make bomb threats by suspending their driving privileges and billing them for the costs associated with the threat.

"How many tragedies are we going to let happen before we take serious action against these punks who are terrorizing our children?" Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, said in a prepared statement.

Mooney announced Thursday he is having a bill drafted for the next Maryland General Assembly session in January.

The current penalty for making a bomb threat is a felony conviction with a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

The Maryland General Assembly this year passed legislation to allow judges to suspend an offender's driving privileges for up to six months. The law goes into effect in October.


Mooney's proposal would increase the driving suspension to up to two years. It would also require the offender to reimburse the school system for any costs related to the threat, such as lost salaries and wages.

Withholding driving privileges is a more effective deterrent than prison time, which a judge might be reluctant to impose on a teenager, Mooney said.

Since the April 20 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., at least 16 students were charged for bomb threats or related incidents.

Those threats have kept students away from school. The most extreme case was Monday, when 46 percent of North Hagerstown High students didn't come to school.

"Despite the terrible tragedy in Littleton, some kids still think that bomb threats are funny and cool," Mooney said.

In addition to being dangerous, bomb threats are expensive, Mooney said, citing one study that showed that for each hour that a school is evacuated, it costs school districts between $1,000 and $5,000, depending on the size of the school.

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