A 12-year-old admitted to making a series of bomb threats to Maryland schools this month and said they did so while knowing that they couldn’t be criminally charged under state law because of their young age, police said.
The child, whose identity was not released, emailed seven bomb threats to three Montgomery County schools, just north of the District of Columbia, between Oct. 13 and Oct. 24, the county police chief said Wednesday, the same day his officers responded to two more bomb scares at local schools.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether those new threats, at Springbrook High School and Albert Einstein High School, were connected, a police spokesperson told HuffPost.
“It is disheartening to accept that the individual responsible for disrupting the educational process and instilling fear in our community was well aware of the legal limitations surrounding their age,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones in a statement responding to the threats. “They understood that they could not be charged under current Maryland statutes.”
The state’s so-called Juvenile Justice Reform Act, which was enacted last year, prohibits anyone under the age of 13 from being charged with a crime unless it’s a “crime of violence.”
The legislation took into consideration racial disproportionality and disparity in the state’s Department of Juvenile Services, as well as research that shows preteens have a “diminished neurocognitive capacity to be held culpable for their actions and also lack the ability to understand legal charges against them,” according to a Racial Impact Equity note presented on the legislation.
A 12-year-old who allegedly brought a handgun and ammunition to school in Fort Meade, southwest of Baltimore, in January also dodged criminal charges because of the bill, drawing similar concern from local police, WMAR previously reported.
Jones emphasized the strain that such threats place on local law enforcement, and financial resources.
“Dispatching officers and K-9 units to investigate these threats, especially when our resources are already stretched thin, diverted our personnel away from other pressing calls for service,” he said. “This diversion of resources is unacceptable, and it jeopardizes the safety of our community.”
The child ― who allegedly emailed threats to Montgomery Blair High School, Oak View Elementary School and Silver Spring International School ― was identified by police detectives with help from the Montgomery County Public Schools technology staff, police said.
A spokesperson for the Montgomery County school district declined to comment to HuffPost on whether the student is enrolled in one of the district’s schools or say how, if at all, the child would be disciplined. They said that school administrators refer to a student code of conduct when making that determination. Discipline there ranges from in-school suspension to expulsion.
Though the child cannot be criminally charged, police can request that the child receive guidance, treatment or rehabilitation through the state’s Department of Juvenile Service by filing a Child In Need of Supervision complaint. Some of the requirements for such involvement by the state include the child acting in a way that is dangerous to themselves or others.
The State’s Attorney’s Office in Montgomery County declined to comment on the matter in a statement to HuffPost on Thursday, reasoning that it is a pending matter involving a juvenile.