‘It’s No Joke’ combats rise in school threats

The number of Florida children charged with making school-related threats has steadily increased during the past three years, the state Department of Juvenile Justice said Tuesday as it announced a new awareness campaign.

During the 2018-2019 fiscal year, 779 youths were charged with offenses related to school threats, up from 687 in 2017-2018 and 629 in 2016-2017, the department said. The 2018-2019 state fiscal year ended June 30. The department announced an “It’s No Joke” awareness campaign to try to dissuade children from making threats about such things as having bombs of firearms.

“We want young people in Florida to understand that, in today’s environment, every threat is taken very seriously and, even if made in jest, can lead to devastating consequences,” department Secretary Simone Marstiller said in a prepared statement.

“There is nothing funny about threatening a school, and there is nothing funny about being charged with a felony. We want young people to think twice before casually threatening violence in their schools.”

Escambia County saw a 34% rise in campus arrests from the 2016-17 school year to 2017-18 — jumping from 179 to 240 felony and misdemeanor arrests on school campuses.

Escambia County ranked #4 for most arrests on campus and had the highest per student arrest ratio per 1,000 student – 11.9 – of the top five districts.

District Students 2016-17 2017-18 % Change Per 1,000
Hillsborough 110,234 554 599 8% 5.4
Broward 143,932 344 322 -6% 2.2
Dade 190,059 290 277 -4% 1.5
Escambia 20,179 179 240 34% 11.9
Brevard 38,868 210 174 -17% 4.5