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Student arrests in Texas spike in wake of high-profile mass shootings

A new study shows the number of school children referred to law enforcement for terroristic threats and exhibition of firearms has spiked across Texas this year. This follows two high-profile school mass shootings in Parkland, FL and Santa Fe, Texas. (File image)

A new study shows the number of school children referred to law enforcement for terroristic threats and exhibition of firearms has spiked across Texas this year.

Texas saw a 156 percent increase in referrals to police for terroristic threats and a 600 percent increase for exhibition of firearms from January to May this year, compared to the same time period in 2017.

This follows two high-profile school mass shootings in Parkland, FL and Santa Fe, Texas.

"Really, understandably, people are nervous and scared and frightened when these horrible tragedies happen," said Morgan Craven, Director of the School-to-Prison Pipeline Project for Texas Appleseed, one of four organizations who helped author the report.

So far in 2018, there have been more than 1,400 referrals to law enforcement for terroristic threats and exhibition of firearms. In 2016, were no referrals for gun threats; in 2017 there were five.

However, the study shows nearly two-thirds of exhibition of firearms referrals stemmed from students making threats to "exhibit a weapon, not actual possession."

Craven worries schools' responses to violent threats could be counterproductive to keeping students safe.

"There are school-wide research based approaches that can be used to just improve school climates, generally, which is one thing that a lot of experts have identified as a way to improve school safety," Craven said.

The approach is also one of 40 school safety recommendations presented by Gov. Abbott in May.

"We're hopeful that the conversations around school safety that have been happening in school districts and the capitol will be productive, and we think that the key to that productivity is making sure we focus on prevention and intervention," Craven said.

Though, black students only make up 13 percent of the student population, the study found they made up 24 percent of referrals for terroristic threats and 31 percent of exhibition of firearms referrals.

Referrals for exhibition of firearms for students ages 10-13, rose by almost 800 percent.

"Kids who have contact with the justice system are more likely to drop out of school. They're more likely to have future contact with the justice system," Craven said.

So far this year, out of 340 school-based terrorist threats in Texas schools, four came from Travis County, one came from Williamson County, and two came from Hays County.

Texas Appleseed, Disability Rights Texas, The Earl Carl Institute, and The Children's Defense Fund-Texas worked together in producing the report. The study was based on data provided from the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.

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