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Police want tougher law on school threats

March 10, 2001

Police want tougher law on school threats



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer


Jefferson County, W.Va., police and a local lawmaker want to make it easier to bring assault charges against a student who makes a threat involving a public school.

Under state law, an assault charge can be brought only if the target of a threat knows there was a threat and believes it, Charles Town Police Chief Mike Aldridge said.

In many threat cases, the person targeted does not realize a threat has been made, Aldridge said. Often the person making the threat tells someone other than the intended victim, he said.

That is the reason police could not charge a Charles Town Junior High School student with assault last week after the 14-year-old boy allegedly told two other students he was going to kill his former girlfriend, a boy she went to a party with and other students in the school. The victims were unaware a threat had been made against them, police said.

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The students who were told about the threat reported it to school authorities.

The boy was charged with report of bombs and other explosive devices after he allegedly threatened to blow up the school, Aldridge said.

Aldridge said he is working with Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson, to look at changing the law dealing with assault. The proposed change would probably affect only school threats.

However, Aldridge said the law may need to be applied more broadly. He suggested, for instance, the law could be expanded to allow an assault charge to be filed if someone threatens to do harm in such places as a theater, a public assembly or a business.

Under adult statutes, assault is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine up to $100 or both. In juvenile cases, teenagers charged with assault are often put on probation if they do not have a record, Aldridge said.

Asked if probation is enough to punish a student, Aldridge said it is better than nothing.

"If there's no deterrent, what's to stop (them)? I've had juveniles tell me 'What are you going to do to me?''' Aldridge said.

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