Cyber threats and school shootings: Teen faces prison in Maryland

The nation was watching when Columbine took place, and when Colorado was the center of a shooting, millions of viewers held their breath. School shootings have taken place in Maryland already this year in February, and it’s not likely to be the last time you hear about this kind of tragedy. A case that’s taking place in Michigan relates to every other shooting, as it shows how quick reactions can help, or hurt, a student.

A 17-year-old student has been charged with the threat of terrorism at school. He pleaded no contest to using an app, called After School, to post threats. He allegedly threatened to cause a shooting similar to Columbine.

These threats resulted in the school being on lockdown for two days, and hundreds of students had to stay home out of fear for their safety. There’s one question to ask here, though. Were the posts actually threats, or were they simply a teenager striking out with words? A psychologist released the teen’s clinical profile and admitted that the teen was having trouble coping with the demands in his life. She reported that he is at risk of tension, anxiety, and nervousness. Despite the potential for the teen to lash out, the psychologist suggested community service and individual therapy, not a prison sentence.

The teen’s defense suggests that he has been badly bullied at school and posted the threats to get other students to stop posting and to get the site taken down. While this may not be the best way to respond to a situation involving bullying or struggles at school, it does raise a question of when mental help and medical assistance may be better advised than simply locking a child away.

Source: The Detroit News, “Sentencing delayed in Brandon school Internet threat” Mike Martindale, Mar. 11, 2015