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GBI: Significant increase in school threats this year

School security expert, Ken Trump, says the rise in threats has to do with social and emotional stress built up during remote learning.

ATLANTA — Alarming school threats posted on social media are affecting districts throughout the state – and also the country. From county to county, officials say they are taking a closer look at these threats, even investigating some of them as terroristic.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) tells 11Alive that although the agency is not required to track school threat reports, it has received an increase in threat reports since last year, too.

National School Safety and Security Services President, Ken Trump, says there’s been an exceptional increase in school threats in the last year, and a lot of it has to do with social emotional stress built up during remote learning.

"They have not been together face to face in person for many months or even more than a year," he said. "Those conflicts and those social dynamics are starting to show themselves in terms of aggressive behavior, and in some cases, violent behavior.”

From the week of Oct. 18 through the end of the month, several Gwinnett County Schools received threats, prompting some parents, like Jill Smith, to keep their children home.

“You’re putting children’s lives at risk and whether this is a mental disorder or mental illness situation, we need help," Smith said. "I think this is a threat where legal action needs to be taken so they can wake up."

Police say five students are facing charges in connection to those.

Then on Oct. 31, a separate threat at Cedar Shoals High School took place, where police arrested and charged a 16-year-old student with felony terroristic threats.

On Nov. 1, a student was taken into custody after leaving voicemails threatening to shoot and blow up Newnan High School.

"A young teenage kid who's thinking that they're just dealing with making a hoax, type of a comment, could end up facing a ton of bricks falling on him both educationally with suspension and expulsion, and with the criminal justice system with a referral to court," said Trump.

He adds that while usually 9 out of 10 threats are unsubstantiated, each one has to be treated seriously, especially in this day in age.

He says districts have been so focused on protecting their staff and students from COVID-19 that now, after remote education, they should all be learning emergency response plans, including active shooter drills, once again.

"Many schools across the country are cutting back on school resource officers. School resource officers are one of the best resources. Often leads to them learning about threats and concerns and safety issues that are real, and allows them to put out these incidents that are hoax incidents very quickly," Trump added.

But outside of school, it starts in the home, with the conversations parents have with their children.

"Let their kids know, there's no such thing as a joke," he said. "It disrupts their school days if schools go on lockdown, or forced into other type of restrictive situations. So it's really a problem.”

Trump adds that administrators should not close down schools or jump to remote learning, because it can only make the problem worse. 

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