Senate bill would give officers more teeth to take on students who make bogus threats

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - From Chapin High School to Lugoff-Elgin, Orangeburg-Wilkinson to Westwood, Fairfield Central and beyond.

All are schools that have been disrupted by bogus school shooting threats in just the past few days – ever since a real school shooting in Florida.

"In our time, it's hard to consider that as funny when so many people – young and older – have been killed by gun violence," said Nine Grey, who lives in Northeast Columbia.

Grey, the mother, and grandmother of teachers are tired of the bogus threats here in the Midlands and beyond.

"I don't think the penalties are severe enough because I think this is far too serious a situation in our nation," she said.

That's why Grey made a trip to a Senate judiciary subcommittee Thursday morning to hear a new idea.

"This is a gap that we as lawmakers need to close," Sen. Sandy Senn (R-Charleston) as she testified about her bill.

Sen. Senn has filed a bill that would give officers and deputies a more effective tool to hold students who make fake threats accountable. Arrests have been made with existing laws, but Senn says a better, clearer-cut one is needed.

"This bill here is very clean, and it should not be controversial," she said to the subcommittee.

But there was a bit of controversy. Could the bill widen the school-to-prison pipeline, Senator Marlon Kimpson asked.

"I never fought in school," he said with a smile. "I always had an extensive vocabulary, so I would use words rather than my fists. I want to make sure we're not prosecuting children for mere child's play."

Senn said that's not the intent. Instead, she said her proposal would help violators get help.

"We don't believe that we can imprison our way out of this," added Jarrod Bruder, the executive director of the South Carolina Sheriff's Association.

On Thursday, both the Sheriff's Association and the Police Chief's Association showed up to testify in support of the bill. Committee members gave it a favorable report, which means its next step is the full Senate Judiciary Committee.

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