After the Oxford High School shooting left four students dead and seven more wounded last week, Michigan authorities are reporting a string of copy-cat threats by students across the state.
According to a report from the Detroit Free Press, roughly two dozen southeast Michigan children were taken into police custody after the Nov. 30 shooting for making or implying threats of school violence — some of them as young as 9 years old.
Punishments have varied, but some of the students have been charged with crimes for their alleged threats, and police continue to warn of serious consequences for so much as joking about a school shooting.
Copy-Cat Threats Follow Oxford High School Shooting
In Waterford, a suburb of Detroit only 15 miles south of Oxford, police said they’ve investigated a string of copy-cat threats since last week’s deadly shooting.
Two of the reports accused unnamed eighth graders of issuing the threats. One, a student at Oakland Scholars Charter School, allegedly made statements about what kind of gun and in what location he would set up “’if [he] was a school shooter.”
Another student at Pierce Middle School was accused of bringing a gun to school, and later making a “threatening gesture” with his hand that “mimick[ed] a shooting gun.”
Both students were taken into police custody and booked into a local juvenile detention center, the newspaper wrote. They’ll face juvenile court judges in hearings scheduled for Thursday.
Even more disturbingly, Waterford police said they were called to Riverside Elementary, where two 9-year-old students allegedly created a “naughty or nice” list that sorted their classmates into “alive” and “dead” categories. Authorities said the children were taken out of school and later turned over to their parents.
The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office will determine whether to press charges against the 9-year-olds, according to the report.
Dozens of Students Charged for Threats
Elsewhere in Waterford, police said they pressed felony charges against two Mason Middle School students who allegedly threatened violence. The pair each face one count of “knowingly making a false threat of terrorism,” a crime that could carry a 20 year sentence, authorities told the Free Press.
“Students who think this [is] a way to be funny, or gain some kind of recognition from their classmates, are making a very big mistake,” said Scott Underwood, Waterford police chief. “It is imperative that parents have a serious conversation with their children.”
According to one local outlet, Oakland County prosecutors are working on at least seven cases involving school threats.
In nearby Wayne County, authorities said they’ve booked more than a dozen minors on similar charges since the Oxford shooting.
“We have charged 18 youth in the last few days with crimes relating to school threats,” said County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. “Much has been written about these types of cases lately, yet still these serious events continue to happen.”
The Wayne County students range in age from 14 to 17, and all but one were in Detroit high schools, Worthy added.
For Districts, Oxford May Have Been a Tragic Lesson
In the tragic wake of the Nov. 30 shooting, Oxford High School administrators have come under fire for their perceived inaction.
School staff reportedly allowed suspect Ethan Crumbley to return to class even after a teacher allegedly saw him draw a disturbing picture, and the district now faces a $100 million lawsuit from a wounded student who claims administrators “willfully misrepresented the dangers” of a mass shooting.
The rash of criminal charges against students who make violent threats may indicate that nearby school districts are implementing a zero-tolerance policy to avoid being in a similar situation to their colleagues at Oxford.
Still, Wayne said it’s important that parents know the signs of mental health deterioration to prevent arrests from becoming necessary in the first place.
“Quelling school threats is going to take the work of all of us,” she told reporters. “It is also going to take facing head-on the access our children have for guns and their fascination with them.”