MIAMI (CBSMiami) – “It’s No Joke” is the message from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice when it comes to posts on social media. It’s also the name of a new awareness campaign announced Tuesday after an increase in arrests for school threats.
“In the future, everything is online. We have to be careful. This is the new reality for everybody,” parent Daniel Arocha said.
DJJ recorded last year nearly 800 kids and teens who were arrested for school threat related offenses in Florida. That’s an increase over the previous two years.
“What is the world coming to? But it’s good that we are increasing awareness everywhere,” parent Adriana Ruiz said.
Planning to take a gun to school, saying there’s a bomb or even warning people not to go to class can get someone arrested. Those are examples sent to us from DJJ.
Attorney Ethan Wall, who specializes in social media law, says every post won’t always be undoubtedly a threat.
“There is a little bit of gray area in the law but instead of shoot first and ask questions later, now, we are taking a more proactive approach. We are spotting these risks. We are making arrests first and then ask questions later and letting the court system sort that out,” Wall said.
Wall says law enforcement isn’t hindering free speech but instead being proactive to avoid missing signs if someone follows through with a threat.
Last week, a 16-year-old was arrested after lip-synching and using gun-like hand gestures toward the names of schools. Even though wall doesn’t believe this video is a threat and the charge may be dropped, his arrest is an awareness campaign itself.
“At the end of the day, the police can go home and rest easy knowing that they made the right judgement call. I believe the court will say this is a tough scenario but we made the right decision. I think the student makes a big learning lesson in life by not doing this again,” Wall said.
Wall also says when it comes to posting about school pride and rivalries, students may want to watch how they express themselves so it’s not perceived as a threat.
For more information on how to report threats anonymously and about the campaign, visit the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice’s campaign website.