Relates to the threat of mass violence.
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 felony.
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 investigation proceeded.
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.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 7931 IN SENATE July 31, 2014 ___________Introduced by Sen. GALLIVAN -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Rules AN ACT to amend the penal law, in relation to threats of mass violence THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subdivision 5 of section 240.60 of the penal law, as added by chapter 561 of the laws of 1999, is amended to read as follows: 5. Knowing the information reported, conveyed or circulated to be false or baseless and under circumstances in which it is likely public alarm or inconvenience will result, he or she initiates or circulates a report or warning of an alleged occurrence or an impending occurrence of a fire, an explosion,
[or]the release of a hazardous substance, OR AN ACT OF MASS VIOLENCE upon school grounds and it is likely that persons are present on said grounds. S 2. This act shall take effect on the thirtieth day after it shall have become a law.EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD15158-04-4