Prosecuting Lubbock juveniles for school threats

Published: Sep. 16, 2022 at 7:00 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A Lubbock prosecutor says the number of school threats is on the rise in Lubbock county.

Ginny Simpson prosecutes juvenile crimes for the Lubbock County district attorney’s office. She has seen more than a dozen cases involving school threats so far this year. A steep increase from years prior, but not all of them can go before a judge. The cases must meet specific criteria to be actionable by the D.A.

“Are they intending to cause fear, or intending to create emergency action,” Simpson said. “When we’re looking at it, are we interrupting public places? Are we interrupting public services those are when we’re looking at felony offenses?”

In most cases, a threat against a school leads to deferred programs or official probation, but Simpson says it does not stop there.

“After official probation, we’re looking at placement, sometimes we’re looking at the Star, or JJAEP as an option.”

That stands for juvenile justice alternative education program. In some cases, the charge can be a state jail felony or even a third-degree felony. That means hard time is a possibility.

“We can only send to TJJD on felonies depending on the nature of the offense,” Simpson said.

Simpson says a student’s mental health is becoming more of a factor.

“Are we going to detain the kid that’s made the threat and do a behavioral health evaluation,” Simpson said. “Sometimes we’ll do a psych evaluation and go a little bit deeper just really depending on the kid and the history with the department.”

The problem is sweeping across Texas. Half a dozen schools across the state have had emergency responses due to threats this week. During a visit to Lubbock Tuesday, Lieutenant governor Dan Patrick called for harsher punishments.

“We’ve got to come down hard on students or anyone if it’s a non-student,” Patrick said. “We cannot have students or adults calling in these threats and getting away with it, there needs to be a severe penalty for that.”