School Prank Results In Felony Charges

All I know is what was in the paper, but as it’s written, this sounds a bit overblown:

Authorities arrested two Gulf Shores High School students after faculty and students mistook firecrackers set off outside the school for gunfire, creating a panic that injured at least two students.

Baldwin County public schools spokesman Terry Wilhite said Tuesday’s prank, which occurred six months after two teens were accused of planning a mass shooting at the school, put the school in lockdown mode for about 30 minutes.

Gulf Shores Police Chief Arthur Bourne said a 15-year-old was arrested shortly after the incident, which occurred about 10 a.m., and was charged with making a terrorist threat, a felony. Bourne said a second 15-year-old also was arrested and charged with menacing, a misdemeanor, and released into the custody of his parents.

The youth charged with a felony was taken to the Baldwin County Juvenile Detention Center in Bay Minette. He also was charged with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor. Wilhite said he will be expelled.

Bourne said the firecrackers caused several students to react in panic and suffer minor injuries, with one girl requiring several stitches for a cut on her face and another spraining an ankle.

Suspend them sure, maybe expel them, but arresting them? And charging one of these kids with a felony? To me that sounds like the penalty is way out of proportion to the offense. This kid’s life will never be the same again if he is convicted of that felony. Is that the proper result for what looks like a dumb prank?  

I also do not think these kids committed the charged crimes. 

Menacing is defined at 13A-6-23 of the code:

A person commits the crime of menacing if, by physical action, he intentionally places or attempts to place another person in fear of imminent serious physical injury.

Reckless endangerment is at 13A-6-24:

A person commits the crime of reckless endangerment if he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person.

Terroristic threats are at 13A-10-15:

a) A person commits the crime of making a terrorist threat when he or she threatens by any means to commit any crime of violence or to damage any property by doing any of the following:

(1) Intentionally or recklessly:

a. Terrorizing another person.

b. Causing the disruption of school activities.

c. Causing the evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation, or other serious public inconvenience.

(2) With the intent to retaliate against any person who:

a. Attends a judicial or administrative proceeding as a witness or party or produces records, documents, or other objects in a judicial proceeding.

b. Provides to a law enforcement officer, adult or juvenile probation officer, prosecuting attorney, or judge any information relating to the commission or possible commission of an offense under the laws of this state, of the United States, or a violation of conditions of bail, pretrial release, probation, or parole.

All three of these at least require the actor to know – not should know, but know – that his conduct is going to cause some kind of serious harm. Granted six months ago, there was an actual threat. But does that mean that these kids, in a new school year, knew when they set off the fireworks that a stampede would follow? And that some minor injuries would result? Was that a possibility? Sure. Is it so likely that they must have known it would occur? No.

Nor do I think fireworks qualify as a substantial threat of serious harm. Of course it depends on what kind they were, but the story says they sounded like gunfire, which I think means they were probably a string of black cats. When I was a kid, I once had some of those blow up in my hand as I was trying to throw them at my step-brother, and all it does is sting.  

And for the felony, they have to prove they lit the fireworks in retaliation against one of the defined groups. The story does not mention any facts related to this element, but the state still has to prove it. That is in addition to the other problems with the case.  

These kids did something dumb. But I don’t think you can infer from the act of lighting some fireworks that these kids wanted to hurt anyone, or cause a riot, or terrorize someone who had tattled on them. They probably just thought it would be funny. Things got out of hand.

Bad judgment? Yes. Is suspension or even expulsion needed to prevent similar bad judgment in the future? Yes. Should these two also face criminal charges? No.

Explore posts in the same categories: Education, Trials

3 Comments on “School Prank Results In Felony Charges”

  1. Cheif Many Typos Says:

    I think some kids there were recently caught planning some kind of Columbine-type attack; this may be the reason for the over reaction (and panic)

  2. wheeler Says:

    the article mentioned that. and i think that may lead to the one possible justification for the criminal charges: if these two kids were somehow connected to the ones that made the threat last year. that would be a whole ‘nother ballgame.

  3. worried Says:

    Just so you know, these two were NOT the ones involved in the threat made last year.

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