I-Team looks into what happens to the young people arrested for school threats

The I-Team looks into what happens to the young people arrested for school threats.
Updated: Dec. 23, 2021 at 11:14 AM EST
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(WFSB) – Channel 3 took a closer look at the growing number of school threats across the state.

This month alone in Connecticut, police said they investigated 20 threats and made 15 arrests.

What happens next is not always clear, especially when the suspect is a juvenile.

There have been 20 threats that were made in or against our local schools in December.

They included bomb threats, firearm threats and social media threats.

They result in lockdowns, early dismissals, cancellations, and a general sense of fear for parents and students.

Many times, they end with arrests, but nothing is revealed after that.

“It’s just kind of scary, you know?” said Kevin Champagne, a Southington parent.

A student allegedly brought a gun to school in Farmington.

A group chat threat was made in Stratford.

A bomb threat was made against a school in Danbury.

On Dec. 6, eight New Haven schools got a threat.

Dozens of schools dealt with threats made on social media.

“This is just getting out of hand, it’s scary,” Champagne said.

So far, police have taken 15 people into custody in December for threats made against schools.

Many of them are juveniles, some as young as 13 years old.

“Kids will be kids, but in today’s day, you never know,” Champagne said. “Every day, it seems like something new going on in the country, in the world.”

The I-Team looked through each school threat made this month, specifically looking at the charges that were filed.

They varied by case.

For example, in Farmington where a 14-year-old student was arrested for bringing a gun to school, that student was charged with illegal possession of a weapon on school grounds and carrying a pistol without a permit.

In other cases, we’ve seen charges like:

  • Terroristic threatening
  • First degree threatening
  • Breach of peace

Usually, the I-Team’s reporting ends with the arrest and charges, but not Thursday night.

The T-Team dug deeper to learn the actual consequences the charges carry.

We went to the Tow Youth Justice Institute at the University of New Haven.

It is a group that researches and leads discussions around juvenile justice.

Erika Nowakowski is the associate director.

“We need to understand why. The why. What was happening with that child?” Nowakowski said.

Nowakowski said that after an arrest, two paths can be taken: Detention and non-detention routes.

There are two detention centers in Connecticut, one in Hartford and one in Bridgeport.

Kids there are locked up.

There are also a handful of residential detention centers.

Those facilities are secured by staff members.

Experts said the average stay in residential detention centers is 3 to 6 months.

“Some of these facilities were not designed for long-term sentencing,” Nowakowski said.

Juvenile offenders who face non-detention punishments, often undergo counseling, probation, therapeutic Intervention, which was explained to the I-Team as comprehensive counseling, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Nowakowski said it expands beyond the juvenile suspect.

“Not just the child, but the child and the family, to the appropriate services in the community,” she said.

Now that the range of punishments was explained, the I-Team wanted to know which route was most commonly taken for those making threats against schools.

“I think it’s too early to tell,” Nowakowski said. “Most recently, our detention numbers have not been high, but with the incidents we’re speaking about now, these are very new.”

Nowakowski said generally, detention is reserved for the more serious charges. For example, the Farmington suspect who allegedly brought the gun to school.

“He did go into detention,” Nowakowski said.

Many who get charged with the less severe, “breach of peace” cases get sent on the non-detention path.

“The courts are not the appropriate place for them, but the community and mental health services and the therapeutic services that are provided in the community are the appropriate place for them,” Nowakowski said.

Experts said many of the cases involving just breach of peace are examples of threats that were found not to be credible.

Even though there was no imminent danger with those, punishments need to be given.

In those cases, the I-Team saw the majority of offenders avoid detention.

Experts said the reason for the lower offenses referred out of court is to make an attempt to rehabilitate rather than incarcerate, especially for kids under 18.