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Fake threat ... real consequences: Yes, they mean it
February 13, 2019

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Fed up with the continued waste of money and manpower, lost classroom time and the emotional impact on students, teachers and school personnel, Lee County law enforcement agencies and the school district issued a warning a few weeks ago: School threats are serious and will not be treated as a prank.

"Making a threat is a crime," the joint "Fake threats real consequences" initiative among the Lee County Sheriff's Office; police departments, including the Cape Coral PD; and the School District of Lee County emphasized.

"It doesn't matter whether you say it, text it, write it, snap it or post it," the program's informational graphic states. "Students who make threats can face serious consequences."

Among them?

"Suspension.

Expulsion.

Up to $10,000 in fines

Up to 15 years in prison.

And a felony record."

Officials said there would be a zero tolerance enforcement policy for campus threats.

They weren't kidding.

The Lee County Sheriff's Office and the Cape Coral Police Department vigorously pursued, or are continuing to pursue, a half dozen unrelated school threats made over the last week or so.

As of press time, four students - one at Mariner High School, one at Mariner Middle, one at North Fort Myers High and one at Oak Hammock Middle School - have been arrested in connection with scrawled comments in school rest rooms.

None of the threats were deemed "credible" but the charges these students - two boys and a girl, ages 16, 16, and 12 - are now facing are real enough.

How big is the "fake threat" problem here in Lee County?

According to information provided at a Jan. 15 press conference, during the '16-'17 school year, 51 threats were reported in district schools.

That number more than tripled last year with 164 threats reported.

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno summed things up succinctly:

"First and foremost: zero tolerance," he said at a recent press conference announcing the initiative. "We are not going to tolerate any kind of threat - whether it's fake, it will be treated real. Our No. 1 goal, not only zero tolerance, but will always be the safety and security of our children in this county. And we take that to the bank. You can rest assured that we will make sure our children are safe when they come to school."

Indeed.

In addition to the warning, law enforcement also offered some advice: Parents, please, please emphasize the message that if you play, you pay.

And please urge your child to be aware, to reach out to an adult if they have knowledge of a potential threat or think a fellow student may benefit from an intervention. School violence is no joke.

We only wish that it were.

- Reporter editorial

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