TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the penal law, in relation to threats
of mass violence
PURPOSE: This bill would expand the provisions of Article 240 of the
Penal Law to make all threats of mass violence against a school a
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section 1 amends subdivision 5 of section 240.60 of Article 240 of the
Penal Law to include all threats of mass violence against a school in
the definition of falsely reporting an incident in the first degree, a
class D felony.
Section 2 states this act shall take effect on the thirtieth day after
it shall have become law.
JUSTIFICATION: Under current law, if an individual threatens a fire,
explosion or release of a hazardous substance on school grounds, he or
she is guilty of a class D felony of falsely reporting an incident in
the first degree.
However, in the years that have passed since the enactment of the
current law, the nature of the threats facing schools have changed Any
threat of mass violence against a school, regardless of the implement
threatened to be used, creates immense fear for both students and
staff, disrupts the learning process, and ultimately dilutes the
response if an actual incident were to occur.
In one such instance, a community in central New York, Walton (in
Delaware County), has been the victim of repeated threats. Starting in
January 2013, just after the tragic events in Newtown, CT, an
individual made a series of threat using social media. These threats,
which required police presence and cancellation of school events, were
explicit, and were accompanied by photos of dead children. Due to
their understandable fear, parents kept their children home while the
When the perpetrator (an adult woman in the community) was
apprehended, she was charged with misdemeanor harassment. The school
was informed that this type of threat did not legally rise to the same
level as a bomb threat and this was all that could be done.
After the perpetrator was convicted and subsequently released, the
threats resumed in May. The end of the year was terrifying for
parents, students, faculty and staff. Recess was moved indoors,
activities cancelled, and schools were put on lockdown. Eventually the
same perpetrator was rearrested and reconvicted. Again the charge was
misdemeanor harassment. Again she was released with the same
explanation that she had not made a threat with a bomb or similar
device and therefore the crime did not rise to the level of a felony.
While this story represents the experience of a single district, it
highlights an inadequacy in the current law, If a school is threatened
with mass violence, the implement threatened to be used should not
mitigate the crime; the charge should be commensurate with the
devastating harm such threats have on a community.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: New bill.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None to the state
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect on the thirtieth day after
it shall have become law.