After a wave of gun-related school threats in Kentucky and nationally, the FBI has launched an educational campaign urging students to #ThinkBeforeYouPost.
In March, police took 500 rounds and a gun from a Lexington student. A hoax threat on social media led to two arrests and federal charges in Jessamine County. In April, a Henderson County student received five years in prison for a threat to shoot up the school.
Many of the threats came after deadly shootings in Marshall County, Ky., and Parkland, Fla.
The #ThinkBeforeYouPost campaign primarily seeks to remind people that such threats are a federal crime, and not a joke.
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"Making false threats drains law enforcement resources and can cause significant distress to victims," said David Habich, chief counsel and supervisory special agent at the FBI in Louisville, in an email. "Hoax threats are not a joke."
Hoax threats made to schools or other public places are punishable by up to five years in prison. If a federal charge is not warranted, state charges can be considered.
Law enforcement around the country often see an increase in threats made to schools and other public forums, especially after school shootings take place, the FBI says. Habich said that in addition to the FBI Headquarters, FBI field offices around the country are spreading the word about the #ThinkBeforeYouPost social media campaign through public service announcements on radio, media coverage and on social media.
At the same time as the FBI's campaign, lawmakers like state Rep. George Brown Jr. (D- Lexington) will be working on a statewide School Safety Working Group .
"I’m committed to doing all I can to make sure we come up with legislation that makes a true difference for those who depend on our schools to be safe places to learn and work,” Brown said in a statement. “I think Lexington’s district has done an outstanding job in this area, and I will be talking with its leaders to see what ideas they might have that would work well statewide."
Brown Jr. is one of 10 legislators — five each from the House and Senate — serving on the School Safety Working Group. The task force is responsible for coming up with recommendations in time for the 2019 legislative session after reviewing school safety and school collaboration with law enforcement and mental-health professionals.
House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins nominated Brown Jr. for the group. on Wednesday, May 23.
“Although the issues are not the same, my hope is that this working group takes the same approach as the one the House created last year to focus on improving the state’s adoption and foster-care policies,” Brown said. “It’s the right way to make sure everyone is heard and their interests are taken into account.”
The Fayette County school district recently began using metal detectors at Lexington's Frederick Douglass High School, and Fayette Superintendent Manny Caulk also called for Lexington's five other high schools to get fixed metal detectors.
Caulk recently released the recommendations of the Fayette County Public Schools District Safety Advisory Council.The recommendations highlighted the importance of mental health professionals, facility enhancements in school safety and the need for adequate and sustained funding for the placement and support options of juvenile offenders.
The council included 28 students, parents, school and district employees, law enforcement representatives, city officials and community members.
"It is imperative that the community remain engaged in identifying and informing law enforcement of any concerns with specific individuals," Habich said. "This vigilance could potentially stop an incident, without public disruption, and get the individual of concern assistance if needed before a hoax becomes action."
If there's a threat to the safety of the public, people can call their local police department or contact the FBI at tips.fbi.gov or over the phone at 1-800-CALL-FBI.