Bill looks to make school threats a misdemeanor in South Carolina

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - State lawmakers are looking to give more teeth to state law when it comes to threats against schools.

Senate Bill 431, sponsored by Charleston Sen. Sandy Senn, looks to make anyone who threatens schools with threats of violence or property damage a misdemeanor subject to fines and prison time.

The bill goes further and said that anyone who goes through on their threat and causes injury or death will be charged with a felony.

Senn's bill was introduced two days after the fatal shooting of 17 people at a high school in Parkland, FL.

Students would face harsher punishment for bogus school threats if one bill becomes law. To put teeth into state law when it comes to threat-making, one senator's bill would give perpetrators jail time and fines.

One high school English teacher supports this bill and said it is a starting point. She feels it would ultimately be a wake-up call to parents.

Inside Amy Goodwin's Camden classroom, high school students learn A-P Literature and Journalism. In her 30 years teaching, Goodwin has been taught a few lessons, too- like how to command a student's attention. And that ability is sometimes lost when safety threats arise.

"If they don't feel safe, it disrupts everything because their focus is not going to be on learning. It's going to be on… 'What do I need to do, I need to get out to where I feel safe,'" Amy Goodwin said.

Just last week, a threat from another student was aimed at Camden High, over social media. That's why Goodwin supports one bill for stricter consequences on threat-makers. One bill being discussed in the Senate would make the threat to school property, a misdemeanor. That could mean jail-time or fines for thousands of dollars or both.

"There certainly needs to be some kind of a consequence, and people need to be aware that people are being punished…because it is a problem in the school environment," Goodwin said.

Carrying out the threat and harming a person, would be a felony under the bill. Some senators argue it could create a school to prison pipeline.

"The goal like I said is not to fill up our jails with kids that are threatening and maybe they don't even intend it, just like pulling a fire alarm or something of that nature. If they do something like that, they need to know that it's very serious and they need to be dealt with. But the real goal is to get the kids that really are thinking of some of these bad activities," Sen. Sandy Senn (R- Charleston) said.

Goodwin said it's a starting point and could grab parents' attention.

The bill was discussed in the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting today but hasn't advanced beyond that. It still needs to get to the Senate and pass, then over the House and be signed by the governor before it becomes law.

The heightened awareness of the event caused several Midlands school districts to be inundated with threats of violence that were unsubstantiated.

The bill has been referred to a judiciary subcommittee.

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