EUGENE, Ore. -- Since the beginning of 2018 KEZI 9 News has reported on 20 school threats made in western Oregon.
Sgt. Ryan Nelson with the Eugene Police Department said after major shootings like the one in Parkland, Fla., they typically see a rise in school threats because more people are aware and cautious of their surroundings. Officer Darin Vetter with the Springfield Police Department said some threats come from students who seek notoriety and attention.
Vetter said students can be impulsive, especially with social media, and they sometimes act before they think.
"Think very carefully before you use those words, think really carefully before you post that because it is going to have huge negative consequences for you," Vetter said.
Both officers said they take all school threats seriously. They said when they investigate they look at the student's behavior and what is happening in their life. They interview friends, family, and school staff. They also said they look for red flags like if a student plays violent video games or is cruel to animals. Vetter said unlike adults, most students will talk to someone about a potential threat.
(The map above shows the location of where school threats have been made this year. The red pins are where there were threats, but they either weren't credible or there were no arrests made. The yellow pins show where arrests were made.)
If a student is caught making a threat to a school it is considered a class A misdemeanor. Juveniles can be arrested and sent to a detention center. From there, punishments can vary depending on the severity of the threat, how credible it is, and if it is a repeat offense.
"It's a very serious situation," Nelson said. "It's criminal and also could get you expelled from school. The other thing is we are limited in our resources, so when we have to follow up on something like this we put a lot of resources into it and other people within the city aren't getting the services they should get as well."
Nelson said some of the threats can be people trying to copy someone else, but they can't discount any threat until it has been investigated.
Officers said students should be aware of what they post on social media or joke about.
In February an Oregon lawmaker introduced an amendment that would make it a felony to make a school threat in the state, even if it isn't carried out.